With Nintendo's WiiWare launching today across Europe, and Sony's PSN establishing itself as a credible download service for the PlayStation 3, Microsoft has told GamesIndustry.biz that Xbox Live Arcade is about to "leapfrog" the competition using XNA-created games.
First unveiled at the Games Developers Conference in February, the Community Games initiative will become a channel for professional and amateur developers to deliver experimental titles on Xbox Live Arcade.
"I certainly think from an innovation perspective it's going to help us leapfrog the competition, effectively until they find a way to duplicate it, assuming they ever do," stated David Edery, Xbox Live Arcade's worldwide portfolio planner.
"To some extent it will certainly help us have more innovative content than either of them, just by definition. With all this random stuff coming from the community, every once in a while there's going to be a real gem in there that you just couldn't have found otherwise, it wouldn't have found its way on to a console," he added.
The initiative is expected to go live before the end of the year, and Edery believes the service will help identify and create niche audiences that have so far not been served by a download service on home consoles.
"The example I always like to give is will someone finally make that scuba diving game, where there's really only 15,000 people interested in a hardcore scuba diving simulation, but they really, really want one? And maybe through XNA someone can profitably get one out there," he said.
"Today, there's not really a venue for that. I'm not going to green light a hardcore scuba diving game for Xbox Live Arcade today because there are not enough people who are interested in that. But with XNA it's perfectly possible.
"So I'm much more interested in it from a perspective of can it be used to satisfy more people, with more diverse content, than anything else," added Edery.
There are also hopes that the service will be used by established developers and publishers to put experimental ideas and new game mechanics out to an audience able to get hands-on and offer feedback.
"Who knows, maybe a guy like Will Wright will spin out a game in three weeks, toss it out on XNA and see what happens.
"This could become a wonderful test bed and you'll start to see super-cool stuff coming from guys who wouldn't really have that opportunity to do that kind of test marketing," offered Edery.
The full interview with David Edery, where he discusses Community Games in detail, as well increasing the size and rate of games on Xbox Live Arcade, can be read here.