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IS Microsoft moving away from indie games after killing the XNA indie gaming platform?

Xbox has changed. As a brand, as a gaming machine, as an online ecosystem for game makers to sell and grow their games, Microsoft has been slowly broadening the scope of what the word “Xbox” means. That being the case, it’s no surprise that Microsoft is sloughing off so many things once associated with the world of Xbox. Amongst those casualties is the XNA Game Studio Software, Microsoft’s platform for independent game development.

XNA and DirectX (DirectX is Microsoft’s now nearly 20-year-old suite of game development tools) developer lead, Promit Roy, reprinted an email distributed to a limited number of XNA developers and Microsoft employees confirming that XNA is no longer being worked on.

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“Presently the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology,” reads the email, “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.”

A Microsoft source later told Polygon that though XNA will no longer be updated, it will not stop supporting DirectX for both Windows and Xbox games. Another source speaking with Computer and Videogames, however, said that the death of XNA could ultimately lead to the end of Xbox Live Indie Games.

Microsoft’s relationship with independent video game developers has always been strained, especially on the Xbox 360 console. On the one hand, Microsoft has helped publish and promote the work of celebrated creators and their games, from The Behemoth’s Castle Crashers to Jonathan Blow’s Braid. At the same time, Microsoft’s myriad rules and fees for publishing titles on the Xbox Live Arcade are prohibitive to independent artists working on a limited budgets. Consider Phil Fish’s Fez, which will never receive a patch for a save-destroying bug because Microsoft would charge tens of thousands of dollars to recertify the game.

Some of the most critically acclaimed Xbox 360 games have been created using XNA, including Supergiant’s BastionFezDust: An Elysian Tail, and Ilomilo. We just gave an almost perfect score to 17-Bit’s XNA game Skulls of the Shogun. Microsoft knows full well that it must continue investing in indie game development, so the question now is: What will replace XNA?

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