GDC '08: Secret Microsoft announcement XNA-related

Schizoid dev says tomorrow's keynote will reveal a new game-distribution system which will have Microsoft's development suite at its core.

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SAN FRANCISCO--Much like the midwinter rain on the streets outside, rumours have been swirling around the 2008 Game Developers Conference that Microsoft will announce something substantial during Live vice president John Schappert's keynote speech tomorrow. Those rumours took on some substance today when Chris Early, general manager of Microsoft's casual-games program, hinted during a presentation that tomorrow's announcement would concern casual games and "asynchronous play" between Microsoft mobile platforms and Xbox 360 and PC games.

Now, another GDC presenter has let slip even more details, saying that Microsoft's developer toolkit for the 360--XNA Game Studio (XNA GS)--will be at the heart of the new game distribution system. In his talk this afternoon about developing the upcoming Xbox Live Arcade game Schizoid using XNA, Torpex Games president Bill Dugan revealed that tomorrow's Microsoft announcement will involve XNA GS, but provided little other detail.

"There's some sort of announcement tomorrow that MS is giving at the keynote, where they're talking about some sort of future game distribution system that XNA Game Studio is apparently the center of. I don't know what that is, we didn't use it and they didn't tell me," he said.

XNA GS is a suite of tools designed to make programming games for the PC and 360 easier and quicker, and was first unveiled at GDC in 2004. Schizoid--a Geometry Wars-like game where two players control two ships--will be the first game to be released on XBLA using XNA when it launches in the second quarter.

In Dugan's lecture, which was part of GDC '08's Indie Games Summit, he praised XNA for being a much faster and cheaper way to develop a game, particularly in its early stages. Dugan said the Schizoid prototype which was used in the original pitch to Microsoft only took four days to create using XNA.

Dugan had some caveats for prospective XNA users, however. His primary problem with the platform is the obvious difficulties which arise should developers wish to port their games to a Sony or Nintendo platform down the line.

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