Given that there was an XNA Game Studio 1.0 and 2.0, news that there will be a 3.0 version releasing this holiday season isn’t what veteran bloggers like myself call “a surprise”. However, the news that XNA GS 3.0 is going to support development of Zune based games was quite a surprise. Rumors of a Microsoft hand held gaming device crop up every few months, but there’s never been any substance to them. The Zune isn’t really a handheld gaming device like the DS or PSP – the FAQ points out that it will take “creative thinking” to build a game for a device with a 240×320 display that’s designed for one hand use. Furthermore, Cesar “Zune Insider” Menendez points out that “Zune is a wireless music and video player first and foremost”.
Still, it’s pretty cool to think about what a Zune based game experience would be like. So far we know it’ll be 2D only and it have full access to any non-DRM music on the device. Also, it will be social – Zune XNA games will support wireless multiplayer with up to 8 players, though it doesn’t support cross-platform networking with Xbox and Windows. I can’t wait to see what the community does with this capability. I’ll definitely be getting a Zune now.
As for the Xbox LIVE Community Games, it’s something the XNA folks have been hinting at since last year. This is the announcement the XNA folks have been building towards since day one when they called XNA the “YouTube for videogames“. Very much unlike the retail or arcade Xbox channels, Community Games will be peer-reviewed by XNA Creators Club community members instead of Microsoft (though unsurprisingly, MS “reserves the right to reactively take down a game without prior notification”). You’ll even be able to sell your games, though details on that won’t be available until later in the year.
Like XNA GS 3.0, Community Games will be available “during the holiday 2008 season.” However, for the next month, Microsoft is offering a preview of Community Games, offering seven community developed games for free, including last year’s DreamBuildPlay co-winner “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai“. I can’t wait to get home and try them out.
IMO, this is a huge announcement. But what’s most impressive to me is how much they’ve accomplished in a fairly short time. XNA was only announced two and a half years ago. That’s amazing progress for a pretty small team. I can’t wait to see what they do next.