Microsoft developer tools prep for next Xbox

XNA Studio meant to simplify game creation for next version of the game device, keeping development costs in check.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
Microsoft released a new set of developer tools Monday meant to ease the creation of games for the next version of the company's Xbox video game console.

XNA Studio is one of the first major products to come out of the XNA initiative Microsoft announced a year ago to standardize game development across different systems. Developers could use the same XNA tools to create games for Windows PCs, the current Xbox and future versions of the console, Microsoft promised.

XNA Studio is based on Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Microsoft's collection of code-writing tools for Windows developers who work in large teams.

XNA Studio will include similar collaboration features meant to facilitate the exchange of code between programmers, designers, quality assurance testers and other members of a development project, Microsoft said in a statement. The software will also introduce a new unified file format to ease sharing of game assets.

Game development tools have gained new importance as Microsoft and competitors prepare to introduce complex new consoles within the next year. The new systems will be capable of creating images many times more detailed than current game machines, meaning developers will have to produce much more code. The result could be skyrocketing development budgets, publishers have said.

Microsoft executives have said that they expect XNA to eliminate enough detail work from the development process that studios can keep development budgets for Xbox 2 titles roughly on par with Xbox games.

"Skyrocketing consumer expectations are putting tremendous pressure on game development teams," Chris Satchell, general manager of XNA for Microsoft, said in a statement. "The real challenge is integrating the whole development process to allow fast iteration of game content and code with minimal rework. This allows developers to realize their visions and deliver higher-quality games more quickly."

Microsoft made the announcement at the start of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, a weeklong event where Microsoft and competitors Sony and Nintendo are expected to share general information on next-generation consoles but steer clear of specifics.