Everybody and his or her dog seems to think that they have a great idea for a videogame (in addition to their unwritten novel) and Microsoft has just launched a major new initiative to help bedroom developers make (and profit from) their own interactive blockbusters from the comfort of their bedroom.
In a clear challenge to Nintendo's WiiWare and Apple's AppStore, Microsoft officially launched 'Xbox LIVE Community Games' at this week's Gamefest conference in Seattle, promising that up to a whopping 70 per cent of profits made on any XNA-developed game would go direct to the developer.
"Microsoft has already opened up game development to the masses by offering the easy-to-use, affordable XNA Game Studio toolset," says the Xbox release that just dropped into our inbox.
"With this newly announced business model, Microsoft will have truly democratised game distribution by enabling XNA Creators Club members to participate in the multibillion-dollar-a-year console gaming industry."
Rigorous P2P reviews
Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business Group Chris Satchell said that the Community Games business model is, "designed to create the best possible experience for both consumers and developers."
Community games will need to be submitted by XNA Creators Club Premium members and have passed a rigorous peer-review system before being uploaded to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace catalogue for sale to consumers, with creators choosing their desired price point - either 200, 400 or 800 Microsoft Points.
The service will roll out in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Italy and Spain later this year along with the recently announced Xbox 360 dashboard revamp, featuring the Mii-like cartoony avatars.
XNA games go viral
A new XNA game store front will also feature alongside the familiar Xbox Live Arcade channel to publicise new and popular homebrewed titles.
Users will also be able to select content from a new-look Xbox.com website pay for it on their PC and queue it for download to their 360.
"The web is a great place to look through lots of content. You can take the URL for that piece of content and send it to your friends," said Boyd Multerer, general manager of XNA, speaking at the Seattle event.
Microsoft hopes that the best XNA games might even become viral phenomena like YouTube videos.
Multerer added: "This is where you can experiment. There will be good games and bad games. And these developers can graduate to professional leagues of Xbox Live Arcade and event triple-A development.
"It's a great way for professional developers to identify good talent that can help your studio."
1000 games in 2008
"When the service launches for consumers this fall, community-created games on Xbox LIVE are expected to double the size of the Xbox 360 video game library, offering some of the most inventive, quirky and unexpected games ever seen on consoles," Microsoft claims.
"By the end of 2008, Xbox 360 owners are expected to have access to the largest, most creatively diverse game library across all next-generation platforms, with more than 1,000 titles spanning Community Games, Xbox LIVE Arcade and retail blockbuster titles. "
1 million downloads
"Since first launching XNA Game Studio in 2006, we have been working hard on improving the toolset and building resources for the community, and the response has been amazing. To date, we've had more than 1 million downloads of XNA Game Studio and adoption in more than 700 universities," said Boyd Multerer.
"For some perspective, the incredible creative community we've unleashed worldwide is more than 25 times the number of professional developers in the industry."
Dream, Play, Build
Microsoft has also put up prizes in excess of $70,000 for its Dream-Build-Play homebrew gaming contest, in which an Xbox LIVE Arcade publishing contract is also up for grabs.
Three of last year's top performers and winners, "The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai," "Blazing Birds" and "Yo Ho Kablammo!" from the United States, Canada, Sweden and United Kingdom, respectively, are all slated for release on Xbox LIVE Arcade in the near future.
Fancy a job in games development? If so, Microsoft just made it a whole lot easier.
For more details and Dream-Build-Play Official Rules, see dreambuildplay.com.
For more information on XNA Game Studio, head over to creators.xna.com.