A few days ago, something unsettling happened, and unless you follow a ton of indie game developers on Twitter like I do, you may have missed it. XNA is dead.
Allow me to backpedal ever so slightly, so I can explain that question you’re probably having as “What the hell is XNA?” XNA is a programming language used on Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox Live Arcade Games. It has been used for games outside of ones on XBLIG, such as Terraria, Sol Survivor, and Magicka. It is also exclusive to Microsoft products, which is why Terraria was on PC as well.
There was a press release emailed earlier this week to the huge users of XNA over the past few years. Here’s what it said:
The XNA/DirectX expertise was created to recognize community leaders who focused on XNA Game Studio and/or DirectX development. 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. As a result, effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program.
There you have it. April first, next year, and we’ll no longer have XNA support from Microsoft. This, in essence, means the death of indie games on XBLIG…well, new ones, rather.
If I’m going to give my opinion here (which I oft love to do), this news truly enrages me. There have been so many people who have gotten their start thanks to the indie game service offered by Microsoft, it’s ridiculous that they would cut its lifespan short. What happens if you’re an indie game developer who’s just starting to develop a game, year one of a three year development cycle, and you decided to go with XNA? Are you totally screwed? Should you just scrap whatever assets you have already worked on, and develop for PC from this point forward? XNA is a partially exclusive language- you can’t port it to anything that isn’t by Microsoft. This means that you’d have to scrap every asset and begin from scratch if you wanted your game to be on PSN. If you want to stick with XNA, you’re now forced to develop for the PC, whether you wanted to or not.
I personally believe this is for one reason and one reason only: The next Xbox will discourage indie game development. I’m sure this is, for the next Xbox, to cut back on huge hosting fees for the servers that are the home for so many XBLIG favorites. Why else would you end the use of a language that has been so popular for so long? Why this one specifically, which has been used so extensively, for this purpose among all others? This decision discourages people from making games, and that’s not good for anyone even slightly interested in the concept of doing so. Purposely ending a system that has worked for seven years, with no announcement of a successor, should be a slap in the face to anyone who has supported indie gaming, or even just been a fan of indie gaming.
[Submitted by contributor Frank Falcone]