Free XNA public beta now available

Microsoft meets scheduled release date for in-development version of Game Studio Express.

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As promised earlier this month, Microsoft today released the public beta for its XNA Game Studio Express. As part of an effort to lower the technological and financial hurdles facing new game developers, the tech giant has embarked on the XNA Game Studio development platform, "a far easier environment" that small developers, game enthusiasts, and students can use to make games. XNA Game Studio is an extension of Microsoft's cross-platform XNA technology, which offers gamemakers a standardized set of tools for both PC and Xbox 360 development.

Novice developers can download the beta now from the official site and use it to start developing PC games. Later this year, they will be able to join the XNA Creators Club to move their creations over to the Xbox 360. The Creators Club carries an annual fee of $99, although Microsoft is also offering four-month trials for $49. The Creators Club will go live when the final version of the XNA Game Studio Express arrives this holiday season.

Developers looking to make money off of their XNA Game Studio creations will have to wait until next spring for the XNA Game Studio Professional. That piece of software won't be free (no price has been disclosed yet), but it will feature more functionality and be geared toward more experienced developers.

Microsoft called the response to its program since the original announcement "overwhelming." More than 100 schools expressed an interest in incorporating the development tool into their curricula, with "nearly 20 leading universities worldwide" already set to bring the tech tool into their classrooms.

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