Microsoft Corp. will let independent developers sell video games for the Xbox 360 console — and keep most of the profits — beginning this holiday season, the company said Tuesday.
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In a move to "democratize game development" and broaden the range of titles available for the Xbox 360, Microsoft said it will let game makers who are members of its $99-a-year XNA Creators Club submit their games for peer review. If they pass, the game creators can sell their work on the Xbox Live Marketplace, the console's online store.
Microsoft had already announced in February it will make games developed by amateurs, hobbyists and students available for download on the Xbox 360's online service. But it did not say whether, and how, developers would be able to make money off their games.
The new arrangement lets game makers pick a price tag between 200 and 800 "Microsoft Points" for their titles. Eight hundred of these points are roughly worth $10.
Developers will receive up to 70 percent of the total revenue their games generate. Microsoft will keep the rest, though its cut will be more than 30 percent if a game is prominently featured — which should mean it would sell better.
"You'll be able to sell the games and take part in the multibillion-dollar business that is game development," said Chris Satchell, newly named the chief technology officer of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment business group.
XNA Game Studio, Microsoft's set of software tools for outside developers, is free, but the Creators Club membership is required to submit games for review. Satchell said the people who make the community games range from amateurs trying their first game to university students and professional developers working in their spare time.
Over time, Satchell expects thousands of community-created games, spanning a wide range of genres, subjects and audience appeal, to be available to Microsoft's gaming audience. But this could take a while.
By the end of 2008, the company expects 1,000 games in all — including the community-created games, retail blockbuster titles and Xbox Live Arcade games — to be available for Xbox 360 owners.
In 2006 Microsoft became the first of the three console makers to open development tools for independent game creators. In May, Nintendo Co. followed with a similar program for its best-selling Wii console. Unlike Microsoft, the Japanese company has not disclosed what kind of revenue-sharing arrangement it has with game creators.
These moves come as the companies, along with Sony Corp., are working to expand the appeal of video games as a form of mainstream entertainment.
"If you want to broaden your customer base you have to have content that appeals for everyone," Satchell said. "We want to get everybody involved in gaming. It's a great way to spend your leisure time."