Microsoft has announced the release of XNA Game Studio Express, a new platform which will allow Windows XP users to create, build and play games for Xbox 360.
Based on the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition and Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, SNA Game Studio Express is now available free of charge via MSDN.com.
Microsoft has also launched the XNA Creators Club, which offers white papers, starter kits, samples and technical product support to developers. Membership is available through Xbox Live Market place and costs GBP 30 / US$ 49 for a four month subscription, or GBP 65 / US$ 99 for 12 months.
"The XNA Creators Club is really the first of its kind - an opportunity to join a community of other developers who are empowered to bring their game ideas to life on a next-generation console system," said Chris Satchell, general manager of Microsoft's game developer group.
"When it comes to encouraging development on XNA Game Studio Express and through the XNA Creators Club, the limits are truly endless."
Microsoft has also announced plans to launch a new competition, titled Dream-Build-Play, which is open to Windows and Xbox 360 XNA Game Studio Express users. The winning game will be released through Xbox Live Arcade, and the contest will begin in January.
"Xbox Live Arcade has opened up a wealth of new publishing opportunities for established and independent developers alike, so it made perfect sense to also extend this privilege to hobbyists and amateur programmers," said Greg Canessa, group manager of Xbox Live Arcade.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming talent through the Dream-Build-Play contest, and we canât wait to share their creativity with our gaming community around the world."
In addition, XNA supporter GarageGames has launched the open beta for its Torque X platform, which is designed to "bring drag-and-drop game development to Windows and Xbox 360". The finished version will be released in early 2007.