Microsoft: “No Plans” To Continue XNA Support – Does Xbox LIVE Indie Games Have A Future?

XBLIG

Every time I write about Xbox LIVE Indie Games (XBLIG), it seems to be about its declining nature. It’s hardly a secret that a number of developers who originally released titles onto the console space and have then moved those games over to PC have seen a phenomenal difference in sales. However, a few developers have made the leap to XBLIG over to Xbox LIVE Arcade, which is a potentially much more lucrative deal. But XBLIG isn’t just about making money anyway as there is a spirit about it that invites anyone who can develop and finish a game in the XNA Game Studio. Approvals for a game’s release on XBLIG are managed by the community, who also issue them with ratings and help to promote each other.

This could either be tarnished or about to see prosperity in the future, as it seems that Microsoft are making efforts to retire their support of XNA from April 1st, 2014, according to a blog post by Promit Roy of Action Equals Reaction Labs. In the post he leaks a supposed email from Microsoft sent to him and other XNA/DirectX MVPs (third party developers and employees) that states that “effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program.”

Another email was apparently sent a day later that denied what the previous one states about DirectX no longer evolving, and notes that in fact, Microsoft are actually continuing to work on evolving DirectX for all their key platforms. This would indicate that Microsoft’s much-rumored next-gen console will likely be another Xbox, considering that the X in the console’s name comes from its support of DirectX.

We reached out to Dominic Carey, UK Xbox PR, to find out if any of this was true, and he confirmed what the rumors were saying:

“XNA Game Studio remains a supported toolset for developing games for Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone. Many developers have found financial success creating Xbox LIVE Indie Games using XNA. However, there are no plans for future versions of the XNA product. Game developers have a wide set of options on Microsoft platforms, ranging from XNA and managed code to DirectX and native code. Microsoft provides developers the options they need to be successful.”

Cross Platform Prosperity?

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So the XNA Game Studio is going to continue to be supported on the Xbox 360, but there’s no chances of it transferring over to Microsoft’s next Xbox. There’s two directions that it could go. Either XBLIG dies with the Xbox 360 as the next gen console arrives and players shift over to that, or it continues on in some form as a more flexible multiplatform space for indie games that would be supported across their next Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows 8 on PCs.

Though XBLIG hasn’t ever really produced much in the way of sales or attention in its current state, I can’t see Microsoft being so willing to retire it completely when they have the opportunity to allow developers the ability to release their games across multiple platforms, and therefore supplying their players and customers with a wider range of games. Of course, XNA is not viable for this kind of service, and those speculating are looking at the likely chances that Microsoft are developing another beginner-friendly development tool that serves this purpose.

Those learning XNA with hopes of making a game and releasing it on XBLIG may want to pause for thought as we await announcements regarding the next Xbox from Microsoft and what, if any, role indie game developers will have, given the push for a multiplatform future from Microsoft, with Windows 8 running across PCs, consoles and phones. Right now, the systems they have in place are old and have always had a lot of criticism levelled at them. Not just XBLIG, but Games for Windows LIVE too, which has always been met with a groan upon being mentioned. And for good reason; it’s hardly up to scratch with other online gaming services, being clunky and awkward quite often. So if Microsoft can put that behind them and make it easier for players to get access to games (even though it will be via Windows 8 that many aren’t fond of) and for developers to create them with chances of more exposure and sales, then surely everyone’s a winner? Just look at the recently released Skulls of the Shogun, which was released across all of Microsoft’s platforms – surely that’s where they’re looking to take all of the games developed with their tools?

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