Microsoft embraces indy game devs.

The great news is that Microsoft not only has a plan to allow developers to purchase a devkit directly from them, but a free Prototype Kit to allow anyone to test their XBox code on PC hardware! Read it here! The bad news? It was announced in 2000, before the XBox launched, and to my knowledge a single kit was never shipped by this program. I’ve scoured Google and have found no mention of anyone working with these programs. I can’t find any mention of them ever coming to fruition at all. It seems they were announced, a few individuals (sometimes people on one forum with one post) showed interest, and there was an internet-wide unspoken agreement to never mention them again. What became of it? I’m not sure, but my guess is the it is the direct precursor to both the XBox Live Marketplace and XNA.

Back in January of this year I actually emailed Microsoft about this program, and much to my suprise, I actually got a human response! Score one for Microsoft’s customer service! I emailed:

I’m looking for information about the XBox Independent Developer Program. All I’ve been able to find on it are mentions of the original press release ( Was this program scrapped, or is the XBox Prototype Kit still available to independent developers as part of XBox’s Registered Developer Program?

I’m emailing on behalf of myself and four associates, the majority of
whom have graduated from Full Sail: Real World Education
( A large reason we’re interested is
because of the possibilities that we see for small development teams
in the XBox Live Arcade.

If you are able to give me any information that may help me, or are
able to point me toward someone who could, I would greatly appreciate
it. Feel free to email me back at this address which I check daily,
or contact me by your preferred means.

Followed by my name/number/address/etc. The reply was as follows:

Mr. Bridges,

The program you mentioned is no longer in operation. We have a Registered Developer Program, but it is only open to established studios. While you would be unlikely to be accepted into the Xbox Registered Developer Program, there is a viable alternative for smaller and/or independent developers. The Xbox console is built around DirectX, and any expertise you develop using DirectX on a Windows PC will be of great use on any future work you may do on Xbox. Other advantages to developing for Windows are the ease and low cost of access to tools and hardware. I would encourage you to develop prototypes using Windows and DirectX and to use those to interest publishers in your work. The DirectX SDK and a wealth of developer resources may be freely accessed at

Thank you for considering the Xbox console as your development platform and good luck with your efforts.

Scott xxxxxxxx
Microsoft Corporation

So basically, “No, you can’t develop for XBox hardware, go program for PC.” But I don’t blame Scott; it’s not like he cut the program, right? (I’ve got my eye on you, Scott.) And I appreciate his info about Direct X, even if I already knew it. He was as helpful as he could have been. I see this and say “Well, okay, let’s make a game and shop it around for publishers. No doubt some of them are going to be making XBox Live Arcade games anyway. Maybe they’d look at our stuff. And my friends, whom I thought were as gung-ho as I was, decided pursuing individual careers would be best (and as of this date, one of us five has a job programming. They’re all great guys, mind you.)

But now I see Microsoft is building the X360 around XNA as opposed ot Direct X. Hey, why help the gaming industry out for free when you can instead charge people to be stuck with your code? Code that Microsoft possibly won’t support in a few years if the X360 and their constant framework changes are any indication.

(After this and the ‘Someone Bitchslap Greg Costikyan‘ post titles, I’m really going to try to cut back on the sensationalistic titles and instead rely on my wit, I promise. Wish me luck.)