I was listening to the 1UP podcast on the way to work and they were talking about how the games industry has changed in recent years.
They were talking about how initiatives like XNA Studio and games like Little Big Planet are putting the tools for game development back in the hands of the single developer working from their basement or garage, much like games development started 30 years ago when it was possible for one guy to produce a hit game and make a fortune.
This is a good thing.
Five years ago if anyone had suggested that a successful game could be created, published and sold by a single person you would have thought them insane. This was the time of the big development houses, game budgets were approaching those of movies, development teams numbered in the 100’s and it really looked like the time when one person could have an idea and make it in to a game was well and truly over.
A particular watershed moment for this change in gaming came when Microsoft announced the XNA Game Studio and XNA Creators Club for XBOX Live. Follow the links for more info but essentially XNA is a development kit and community which facilitates development, deployment and sale of games on XBOX Live by anyone with an idea and some coding skills.
You may think that this will open the floodgates to ten thousand tetris clones but the XNA Creators Club is structure in a way that other members will vote on the game and give them ratings, members will also have a weighting associated with their vote based on their previous works/votes which will go towards determining if a game will be released to the public or not. This should improve the signal to noise ratio considerably.
The additional requirement that you need to pay a yearly fee to be a member of the XNA Creators Club should also eliminate the kiddies from voting for garbage and restrict membership to real developers, establishing a real peer review system which means that games making it in to the public eye should truly be worth the time to download and check out.
This wasn’t meant to be a disertation on the wonders of XNA, there are a number of other initiatives on the horizon which will work in a similar way, and not all of them are as structured but they do hold the potential to change the way we look at games and game development.
Time will tell if this is the start of a revolution or a blip on the radar for the big corporate players, but it certainly makes for an exciting time of innovation and change for console gamers everwhere.