Xbox Live Community Games, the most important news in gaming ever?


In the past I have described the platform holders as evil because of the business model they force on the world and how the current AAA game development and publishing business is flawed and, ultimately doomed. Also the need for more user generated content has been addressed continually. Now Microsoft have answered all these concerns and more in what can only be described as a stroke of genius. Someone at Microsoft really has got their head screwed on properly when it comes to understanding games and the internet. This is amazingly good news.

What it means is that anyone in the world can write a game using the powerful and easy to use XNA tools. That game can then be published in the new Live Community Games section of Xbox Live. It will become like a Youtube of games with, one day, many thousands of games available.

At one stroke Microsoft have removed all the barriers to game development and more importantly to game publishing. We will have a flowering of innovation and creativity beyond anything the game industry has ever seen before. Probably beyond what any creative industry has ever seen before. The last explosion in gaming creativity was the bedroom Sinclair Spectrum coders in the 1980s (we have been going downhill creatively ever since), this will be thousands of times bigger. The possibilities are infinite.

So now all those tens of thousands of frustrated wannabes who think that game designing is the ultimate career can go and become game designers, there is nothing stopping them except the need for a lot of hard graft. And all the keyboard warriors who rant about what games the industry should do can now go and do it themselves. I can see lots and lots of gaming professionals who have a day job with a big developer now working at home in the evenings to develop their own games, realising ideas that their bosses have never allowed them to do.

All this would be impossible if gaming were still wedded to the cardboard and plastic game distribution model. We are in the middle of a revolution where this is totally replaced with online digital distribution, which offers a whole array of advantages, as we are increasingly seeing. Which makes the Blu-ray victory in the media war look increasingly phyrric.

Also in the middle of all the excitement of the announcements Microsoft let a big secret slip. They said that in the future XNA will be available for Zune. So now we know. Zune will evolve into a mobile gaming platform. It will be connected to the internet and it will use Xbox Live. Exciting stuff.

In the console wars this announcement gives Microsoft an immense advantage as they put more clear blue water between themselves and their competitors. This is the sort of advantage that won’t sell a thousand consoles tomorrow, but that over time will create a compelling case for Xbox 360 (or Xbox 3) ownership.

Of course this is Microsoft’s to screw up. How they go about implementation and how they react to inevitable problems will be critical. This whole thing can be very big. Or it can be truly massive. Let’s hope that the people who implement this have the same genius and insight as the people who created it.



  1. I think you’re doing a disservice to the many indie/hobbyist PC developers, where some amazing work has been created already. Though I agree this is a Good Thing ™.
    Sony needs to revive Net Yaroze and make it not pants.

  2. The problem for me is that will be incredibly difficult to market the game through XBLA network. If new titles will flood, it will become increasingly hard to make them stand above others.

    Virtual shelves aren’t that infinity, people tend to stick with main page and “top 10” rankings. It is happening with the casual game portals in the Internet nowadays – but in the Internet you can have dozens of big portals, while in XBLA you don’t.

    Of course it will foster creativity, but as for making money, it will quickly become much harder than the Internet itself. You just won’t have variety of channels to market the game.

  3. This will make a massive difference to industry recruitment.
    In the Spectrum days people coded a few games in their bedroom before getting a proper job.

    Soon developers won’t employ anyone new to the industry who hasn’t had an Xbox Live Community Game published. Every game university course in the world will involve writing XNA games.

    So graduates and other newbies will have a proven track record before they even start in the industry proper. This is going to raise standards enormously.

  4. This is an excellent move by Microsoft. And, based on the wording of the announcement, Microsoft seems to be thinking about this in the right way. The goal is not simply to encourage hoards of user-generated content (most of which will be mediocre if the PC experience is any guide), but rather to empower and identify the best budding developers and move them into the professional ranks more quickly. While this move is unlikely to stop the Sony surge in the near term, it should be a boon for Microsoft down the road if it is executed well.

    Sony (and to a lesser extent, Nintendo) already have similar plans, but Microsoft’s first mover advantage should help them again on this front. An interesting move for Nintendo (or some other player) would be to leapfrog the download paradigm and move directly to server-based gaming. The bandwidth infrastructure that will eventually make large content downloads practical will also make server-based gaming possible. And server-based gaming is a more elegant approach with a much lower total system cost. Imagine a simple “Wii-terminal” being used as a portal to powerful server-based games available across the Internet — it makes downloading content onto an Xbox or PS3 console seem out-moded.

  5. Server-side has an advantage of taking down piracy as well…

  6. Just to mention that downloads of XNA doesn’t mean much. In order for anyone to actually run stuff on a XBOX360 console they need to subscribe to the creator’s club – i.e. they need to pay the fee. On top of that your audience is only other subscribers to that service.

    So to sum up: in order to actually play someone else’s XNA game you have to pay $99 for a year or $49 for 4 months. Pretty heavy price for a gamer to have access to indie “dubias quality” games. I’d conclude that the major subscriber mass are enthusiasts not consumers. People that care about their own creation not other’s.

    While this all sounds cool at first in actual practical terms it just borderline impractical as a bussiness model and poor investment of said $99. In this way Microsoft cash in on people’s desire to be creative and successful while severly limiting the target market.

    This could be an excellent vehicle of a game idea to be then done wtih full production (if it gets noticed) I can’t see the mass success you are predicting unless the pricing strategy is changed. I can’t see the pricing model changing because that would mean MS would have to certify the games that are released which will produce more costs – unbearable for a bedroom coder.

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