Continuing on my vacation game development theme (and yes, I am spending a lot of time with my family and doing things around the house, it’s not all geek time ;), Microsoft has just announced that they will be releasing an Express version of their XNA Game Studio for free for Windows development and only $99 for Xbox 360 development. This offering will build on top of their free Visual C# Express IDE and will include some tools for integrating content as well as their XNA Framework game-engine-type-thing. They are really pushing for game development in C# and the CLR, even for the Xbox 360.

As the guy in their XNA Overview video mentioned, the game developer market is pretty small relative to others and selling tools to this market isn’t going to be a money maker. What’s important to Microsoft is that they help developers as much as they can to get them building content for Microsoft’s platforms. It doesn’t really matter how much they charge for the tooling and frameworks since they will make their money on the platforms. And with good free offerings, they’ll get the kids hooked making games for Microsoft platforms and that will carry that into their careers as professionals.

I am still of the opinion that Eclipse can be an even greater game development environment since it is truly multi-platform. There’s no reason why we couldn’t build a set of plug-ins that allow developers to target all of the consoles and all of the desktop platforms, including Microsoft’s.

Actually there may be one reason, who’s going to pay for it? Microsoft is busy devoting itself to Visual Studio, and I haven’t seen much interest from the other vendors in contributing to such an open source project (although I know from bug reports and one quick discussion years ago that Sony Playstation group is or at least has used the CDT). It would take some sort of consortium to organize and pay for the project and get involvement from the various players. It could be done and it would be cool for Eclipse but I’m not sure that industry is ready for such co-opetition as much as the embedded industry is.