Microsoft: Next Generation of Games Starts With XNA

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 24, 2004 — Microsoft Corp. today announced XNA (TM) , a powerful next-generation software development platform. XNA empowers developers to deliver breakthrough games while combating rising production costs and ever-increasing hardware complexity. Games for future iterations of all Microsoft® game platforms — including Windows® , Xbox®
and Windows Mobile (TM) -based devices — will be unleashed by tools and technologies from the XNA development platform.

XNA is the catalyst for a new ecosystem of interchangeable, interoperable software tools and technologies from Microsoft, middleware and game development companies. By integrating software innovations across Microsoft platforms and across the industry, XNA forms a common environment that liberates developers from spending too much time writing mundane, repetitive boilerplate code. Instead, XNA frees game creators to spend their time where it matters most –on the creativity that differentiates their games.

“Software will be the single most important force in digital entertainment over the next decade,” said Bill Gates, founder and chief software architect of Microsoft. “XNA underscores Microsoft’s commitment to the game industry and our desire to work with partners to take the industry to the next level.”

The industrywide XNA initiative will be unveiled today in a keynote speech delivered by Microsoft’s Robbie Bach, senior vice president of the Home and Entertainment Division, and J Allard, corporate vice president, Xbox platform, and chief XNA architect, to hundreds of game developers at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif. In the speech, Bach will outline some of the challenges that game developers will face in the near future.

“Silicon advancements and new features like high-definition and pervasive broadband will send game development costs skyrocketing,” Bach is expected to tell conference attendees. “The video game industry must band together to find a solution that ensures vitality and sustainability for years to come, while responding to consumer desires for bigger, better games.”

As part of the XNA unveiling, Microsoft also announced Allard’s responsibility for overseeing and driving the XNA initiative companywide. “At the heart of XNA is choice. No game today is built with just one tool, and no game tomorrow will be either,” Allard said. “By creating an environment where software innovations flourish and work together, XNA will allow game developers to redefine what’s possible in games and give gamers the freedom to pursue their own paths. XNA closes the gap between what gamers want and what developers dream.”

Illustrating the potential of the XNA development platform, Microsoft will make a series of announcements about its own video game tools and technologies in four key areas: online, input, graphics and audio.

  • In response to strong customer demand, Xbox Live (TM) development tools for functionality such as billing, security, login, friends and matchmaking will be made available to Windows developers. The tools will make it easier to create the same social, unified online gaming experiences on Windows that game players have come to expect on Xbox.

  • On the input front, as part of XNA, Microsoft will develop a common controller reference design and unify input APIs and button standards across multiple platforms. The result will be a family of common controllers for Windows and Xbox game players. In addition, the move will fuel a whole new wave of compelling, cross-platform input devices from peripheral manufacturers.

  • In graphics and audio, many tools such as PIX (an analysis tool) and XACT (an audio authoring tool) — previously available only to Xbox developers — now will be available on Windows as part of the XNA development platform. Likewise, innovations from Windows such as High-Level Shader Language (HLSL) will come to Xbox. The DirectX® API and the Visual Studio®
    development system will continue to be the baseline environment for both platforms. Collectively, these tools and technologies will enable movie-quality graphics while forming the impetus for new software that will help developers cope with the looming complexity of high-definition video and audio.

“On the PC we have tools like HLSL. On Xbox we have tools like PIX. These are both really powerful, and XNA combines the power of the PC and the power of the console into a best-of-breed platform,” said Gabe Newell, founder and managing director of Valve Software LLC.

More than 20 game development and middleware companies already have recognized that XNA will drive advancements in the industry. David Lau-Kee, chief executive officer of Criterion Software, said, “We are pleased to see that Microsoft shares our vision of helping developers make better games, faster, through use of their favorite middleware. We look forward to leveraging XNA in the RenderWare tool chain to implement Windows- and Xbox-specific features.”

“Because it’s software, we can add new and improved XNA tools consistently, spurring continuous innovation in games. Developers won’t have to wait for new silicon to enjoy the latest advances,” said Dean Lester, general manager of Windows Graphics and Gaming Technologies at Microsoft. “The benefit to gamers will be dramatic leaps in production quality and gameplay for the next-generation Xbox and the next generation of Windows. And it starts today.”

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Microsoft XNA Support Sheet

The XNA development platform will serve as the foundation for future game platforms from Microsoft, including Windows, Xbox and Windows Mobile-based devices. Video games on future iterations of Microsoft game platforms will be powered by tools and technologies from the XNA ecosystem. XNA dramatically improves the way games are produced, helping contain skyrocketing development costs by reducing the amount of time developers spend writing mundane, repetitive boilerplate code for complex new hardware. The XNA ecosystem integrates new and existing tools and technologies from Microsoft and its partners so that developers can make better games faster.

“Alias heartily supports XNA. XNA will pave a single path for deployment of rich content from Maya across multiple Microsoft game platform environments such as Windows-based PCs and the Xbox.”

  • Geoff Foulds, Global Games and Interactive Marketing Manager, Alias Systems

“Anything that makes the game developer’s job easier, and removes some of the risk and some of the trial and error, is a good thing. We can concentrate on what makes a game good — gameplay, content and visuals — and not worry about fighting the hardware.”

  • Jez San, Founder and CEO, Argonaut Games PLC

“We’re excited to have been involved with XNA since its conception. We design hardware for developers so they get the high performance they expect under all circumstances, but it’s equally important to provide software tools that remove the barriers to creating great content. The combination of ATI’s hardware and Microsoft’s XNA software will let game developers concentrate on what’s most important: making blockbuster games.”

  • Andy Thompson, Director of Strategic Marketing, ATI Technologies Inc.

“We are pleased to see that Microsoft shares our vision of helping developers make better games, faster, through use of their favorite middleware. We look forward to leveraging XNA in the RenderWare tool chain to implement Windows- and Xbox-specific features.”

  • David Lau-Kee, CEO, Criterion Software

“XNA is a great software solution that provides efficient tools, middleware and production pipelines to create better games faster. We fully approve and support this next-generation strategy, as effectiveness has been our ultimate goal since the establishment of Crytek and the development of CryENGINE middleware.”

  • Cevat Yerli, President and CEO, Crytek GmbH

“Discreet is excited to support game developers though Microsoft’s new XNA initiative announced today. With the largest registered install base of 3-D animation software in the world, Discreet 3ds max software has been an integral creation tool for Microsoft Xbox game developers — and the new XNA middleware platform will assist them in bringing high-quality games to market faster.”

  • Marc Petit, Vice President, Product Development, Discreet (a division of Autodesk Inc.)

“It’s the age-old problem of game development: how much time do you spend on your tools and technology and how much time do you spend on your game design? The better the tools and technology, the better — and faster — you can make your game. The more Microsoft does to provide developers with tools, the easier it is for game developers to develop better games.”

  • Tim Sweeney, Founder and President, Epic Games

“We are extremely excited about XNA, both as a middleware provider and as a game developer. Tools are the only chance for future success in this industry, and never has this been more true than now. As we move into next-generation development, the expectations of gamers and the abilities of hardware open almost limitless possibilities for content creators. Without the right tools, developers will not be able to keep up with the pace — XNA is what the industry needs right now.”

  • Julian Eggebrecht, President, Factor 5 LLC

“Havok, as the leading supplier of physics middleware for the game industry, believes that only through increasingly sophisticated software components and tools that integrate seamlessly with each other can the power of the next generation of entertainment platform be leveraged by game developers. The XNA initiative is important for the industry in that it represents a commitment to providing the software infrastructure to make this happen. We are looking forward to leveraging XNA technology and participating in its success.”

  • Dr. Steven Collins, Chief Technical Officer, Havok

“I want more of those up-front tools and more technology that we could use right away and learn from, because what we try to do is hire all creative people to figure out that answer. If I have to devote a lot of resources to technology, that’s fewer resources that we can devote to creating a great game.”

  • Brett Bourbin, Director of Technology, High Voltage Software

“If the right tools are available, we can worry about building the game and not building the software.”

  • Marc Lutz, Chief Technical Officer, Ketsujin Studios

“XNA will enhance NDL in delivering Gamebryo’s industry-leading cross-platform 3-D graphics engine and tools.”

  • John Austin, CEO, NDL

“Microsoft’s introduction of XNA presents an exciting opportunity for game developers to not only maintain a unified development environment while creating stunning content for multiple platforms, but to also focus on taking full advantage of the latest graphics technologies and shading effects to express their creative visions to the fullest. For NVIDIA, the availability of XNA presents a particularly exciting opportunity as our graphics technology continues to extend into new markets, such as handheld computing, where developers will be able to create and deliver 3-D gaming experiences like never before seen.”

  • Mark Daly, Vice President of Content Development, NVIDIA

“The best thing a console provider can provide is a complete, robust environment where all the redundant generic stuff is taken care of. That frees us developers to work on the cool, specialized features that are going to make each of our games innovative.”

  • David Wu, President and Technology Director, Pseudo Interactive Inc.

“We are extremely excited by the new XNA technology introduced by Microsoft. XNA empowers Quazal with tools to drive innovation even further on both Microsoft Windows and Xbox. In the end, Microsoft XNA is the starting point of a revolution that will bring game development to the next level.”

  • Martin Lavoie, Chief Technology Officer, Quazal Technologies Inc.

“Developers have demanded an easier way to develop games, and Microsoft has responded. With HLSL and now with the XNA development environment, the process of writing shaders and creating visually stunning content is more accessible and simplified than ever before. Right Hemisphere shares Microsoft’s goal to streamline the production pipeline for artists and programmers. Our Deep Exploration software is included in every Xbox developer kit so that assets may be created in most any application and previewed in real time on Xbox. What this does is allow for a smoother, less disruptive development process in which artists, engineers and programmers can focus on their core tasks and work more freely and independently of each other. Together, XNA and our WYSIWYG software take away some of the constraints and disruptions burdening the 3-D content creation process.”

  • Michael Lynch, CEO, Right Hemisphere

“For tools and middleware developers like Secret Level, having our tools work across platforms is key. Good tools and middleware solutions will be vital on the next generation of game machines, and XNA is just what we need to support the development of cross-platform games simultaneously.”

  • Reeve S. Thompson, Director of Production, Secret Level

“Today’s developers demand the most advanced and flexible tools in order to produce out-of-this-world games. In unifying the Windows and Xbox development tools under the XNA software system, developers can now save time by designing multiplatform games, and focus on creating amazing content. Combined with SOFTIMAGE|XSI, they can make better games, faster than ever before.”

  • Gareth Morgan, Senior Product Manager, Softimage Co. (a subsidiary of Avid Technology Inc.)

“At Touchdown, we have always been committed to providing tools that help developers focus on game content rather than technology development. We’re looking forward to XNA, which will further expand the value of middleware to game developers.”

  • Jeffrey Hutt, Technical Director, Touchdown Entertainment Inc.

“On the PC we have tools like HLSL. On Xbox, we have tools like PIX. These are both really powerful, and XNA combines the power of the PC and the power of the console into a best-of-breed platform.”

  • Gabe Newell, Founder and Managing Director, Valve

“XNA allows us to leverage some of the great tools we’ve come to rely on for Xbox development for PC games as well. We are excited about this, both as a developer whose games often bridge between the console and Windows worlds, and as a middleware licensor supporting teams working with both platforms. This is going to be a win-win for everyone.”

  • Tobi Saulnier, Vice President, Product Development, Vicarious Visions Inc.

“Virtools is proud to join the XNA program. We will provide even stronger middleware for the next generation, capable of dramatically easing the development effort and accelerating the time to market of high-quality games on powerful future platforms.”

  • Bertrand Duplat, President and CTO, Virtools Canada Inc.

“Software makes all the difference. I believe with this next generation, hardware is not going to matter as much as it has in the past. It’s about software tools.”