Microsoft says there will be no future development of its XNA development tool, which could be bad news for fans of Xbox Live Indie Games.
Microsoft's XNA is a toolset used for developing software for Windows, the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone devices, that's especially popular with indie developers on the Xbox 360. Among the well-known games developed with XNA are Bastion, Chime, The Adventures of Shuggy, Terraria, Dust: An Elysian Tale and Cthulhu Saves the World. But Microsoft says the XNA development tools are no longer in "active development," confirming information contained in an email sent to developers and employees that was revealed to the public on January 30.
"Presently the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology. Given the status within each technology, further value and engagement cannot be offered to the MVP community," the email states. "As a result, effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program."
That represents potentially bad news for the Xbox indie scene, according to an unnamed developer who told CVG that it could be the first step toward the eventual removal of the Xbox Live Indie Games service. "No-one wants to learn a dying technology, and a big part of XNA's appeal was the prospect of selling a game on Xbox Live, even if that wasn't the most commercially sensible thing to do," he said. "If there are no advocates of the technology, and we infer from the lack of internal support in Microsoft that there will be no XBLIG on the next-gen machine, there is no-one to drive XNA adoption and no incentive to learn it."
There's a possibility that Microsoft will roll out another "newbie-friendly technology" prior to the launch of the next Xbox console, but if not, the challenge to indie game makers will rise substantially. "XNA was a managed language, meaning it was much harder to crash the whole Xbox OS via an XBLIG," the developer said. "The same would not be true of the lower-level APIs that 'proper' game developers use."
In a statement to Polygon, however, Microsoft said it is "actively investing in DirectX as the unified graphics foundation for all our platforms... DirectX is evolving and will continue to evolve." And while XNA development has halted, it will remain a viable development kit for the foreseeable future. "XNA Game Studio remains a supported toolset for developing games for Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone," a company representative said. "Many developers have found financial success creating Xbox LIVE Indie Games using XNA. However, there are no plans for future versions of the XNA product."