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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Xbox outlines 'YouTube for games'
Xbox gamers
Will Xbox gamers be playing home brew games?
Microsoft is to offer a consumer version of professional tools used to develop videogames for the Xbox 360.

The software will let non-professionals develop titles and then share them via the Xbox Live online service.

Microsoft executive Peter Moore said: "It's our first step of creating a YouTube for videogames."

The program will seek to complement a trend that has seen videogames becoming more like film blockbusters, costing up to 20m to produce.

Users will need a PC running Windows XP - or Vista in the future - to operate the tools program, called XNA Game Studio Express.

The tools will be available in trial form from 20 August and there is a $99 (55) annual subscription.

David Amor, creative director at Relentless, developers of Buzz, praised the move by Microsoft.

"Anything that lets a wider set of people have the ability to create software is a good thing.

"The best games are about ideas, not necessarily about technical skills."

Mr Amor said the games market was broad enough to support epic, expensive titles and more modest, home-produced games.

He said: "If it enables people to put ideas into practice then it could also be a good gateway into the professional industry."

The boom in videogame development in the UK and US in the 1980s was attributed to teenagers making games on home machines such as the Spectrum, TRS-80 and Commodore 64.

Mr Amor said that experience of developing DIY games on powerful games consoles could help produce a new generation of talent.

Moto GP
It is highly unlikely non-professionals could produce games like this

Mr Moore said the consumer XNA program was basic compared to the pro tools, which cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Some basic program skills were still going to be needed for the consumer version if successful titles were to be developed, he said.

Mr Moore said the games users would be able to make would be rudimentary.

He said future plans may include additional software packs that consumers could buy to tweak their games.

Microsoft would regulate the content for appropriateness and intellectual property issues, but users would own their work, he said.

"I'd love to send a royalty cheque to a kid," he added.

YouTube has become an enormously popular website for video clips - many of which are filmed by users themselves.

Last month YouTube reported that users watched more than 100 million videos per day.

Microsoft said more than 10 US universities, including the University of Southern California and Southern Methodist University, will include XNA Game Studio Express and Xbox 360 development in their curriculum.

User-generated content is not new; it thrives within PC gaming where gamers develop mods of popular games and add content to existing titles.

But producing games for consoles has traditionally been almost impossible because the hardware platform is closed.

Chris Lee, commercial director of FreeStyleGames, said he welcomed the opportunity the tools would give budding game developers.

But he warned that producing DIY titles was far removed from the reality of making professional games.

"I'm concerned that people will think that getting into the games industry is simply a matter of making a few home titles and then working for a professional company."

But Mr Lee agreed that there could be room in the marketplace for professional high-end games and DIY titles.

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