Celebrating the past and embracing the future of indie gaming
By: Chris Charla and Andy Dunn
Post Time: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 5:17 p.m. PT
At Xbox, we have seen firsthand the magic that independent developers can bring to gamers worldwide. The reception to ID@Xbox on Xbox One has been fantastic, with more than 1,000 developers with kits in hand working on the next generation of games for Xbox One and Windows 10. As much as we are excited about what is ahead, it is important to us that we acknowledge and celebrate the path it took to get here – while taking the next step forward together with the community.
Today we communicated to developers that we’re beginning the sunsetting process for the XNA Creator’s Club and Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) on Xbox 360. We’re working to ensure the process is as smooth as possible and to minimize any impact for developers who are still working on XBLIG games for Xbox 360.
- As of today, we’ve stop taking new subscriptions or membership renewals, but we’ll ensure that current members who are still working on games have any memberships that expire “topped off” until September 9, 2016. After that date we’ll no longer allow new games to be published. All creators with a valid subscription as of today will receive a free lifetime Windows Developer account (normally $99).
- In September 2017, we’ll stop selling XBLIG games, close the store and pay out all money earned by developers. Of course, players will still be able to re-download games they own and continue to play the games they own.
- Longer term, over the next two years we’ll be working with game conservationists and creators to preserve the legacy of XBLIG content. We look forward to sharing more details in the future.
XBLIG is where many great developers got their start, and “diversity” doesn’t even begin to describe the incredible variety of games that creators made on XBLIG. So seeing the end come into view is definitely bittersweet. But it’s also a great time to reflect on the legacy of XBLIG. Not just what it accomplished, but how far the game industry has come in the nine years since the first beta of XNA Game Studio was released in August 2006.
In 2006, video games – especially console games – were a closed shop. You needed to work at a company and know someone to even have a chance of seeing a dev kit, never mind releasing a game. At Xbox, we started with the vision that anyone could create console games. XNA and XBLIG were our first attempts to open up the closed console world – to let students, hobbyists, and anyone with a great idea make games and publish them without needing a studio or even a business license. Over the last nine years, we have seen many great developers get their start in XBLIG and we are very proud of all that has been accomplished. Developers who came from all backgrounds and all walks of life and were able to make console video games.
As I look back, I feel the vision of the original creators of the program has been completely proven out by subsequent events. Games are a hugely important art form and the torch of democratizing game development has been carried on with amazing tools such as Unity, GameMaker, and Unreal Engine.
On Xbox and Windows 10, ID@Xbox is a spiritual successor of XBLIG, offering platform and Xbox Live access on console and Windows 10 to independent creators of all sizes and scale. Anyone today can sign up for a Windows Developer Account and start making games today using the tools I mentioned earlier and more. Creators have more platforms they can ship on today than ever before, and more and better tools to help them every day – and our priority is ensuring that we give independent developers the support they need to take the next step with us towards the future of gaming.
The last word in this blog belongs to Andy Dunn of ZBuffer, who has done more for the XNA and XBLIG community than anyone on earth, from the earliest days to the present. He’s been a Microsoft MVP supporting XNA and XBLIG for years, wrote several of the early demos, a couple of indie games including “Kissy Poo” and just released what might be one of the final XNA XBLA games “Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded”:
I remember being asked to come into Microsoft for a possible contract job. It was a C# gig for the Xbox team and I wasn’t really interested. I had recently quit Microsoft to make games and I knew that nobody used C# to make games on consoles. A friend told me he couldn’t say any more, but it would be worth my while, so I went along. I suspect I then sat with my mouth wide open when they told me that not only could I use C# to write Xbox 360 games, but there would be a storefront to sell your games. Remember this was 2006 – there was no concept of an open App Store and certainly nothing like it on a console. “Why yes of course I was interested in writing some demos and starter kits… of course I can keep it secret till August.”
The last nine years of my career all started from that meeting. I’ve worked with lots of people besides Microsoft using XNA; and since then, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at conferences, teach at universities, make games and meet some (hopefully) lifelong friends. And tens of thousands of others had the same opportunities. Careers have been founded, millions have been made and in at least one case, a marriage occurred! The XNA/XBLIG community is easily the best set of people I’ve had the pleasure to be on the internet with. The forums were full of Microsoft employees and knowledgeable experts mixing with total n00bs wanting to write their own MMO. I know the mods were not always popular but we made sure they were a great place for almost everyone.
We’ve known the end was coming for a while, and thankfully two years notice is plenty of time for those still in progress. Many of the XNA people have moved onto Unity, Unreal and other gaming tools. The XNA style of programming lives on cross platform with MonoGame for those who wish to continue, and the knowledge we all
got is still a valuable skill.
Thanks for the good times Microsoft – we may not all have an XNA tattoo, but XNA and Xbox Live Indie Games were a huge part of many people’s lives.