Xbox Live Indie Games may not have a place on the next generation of Xbox hardware, if leaked emails are to be believed.
Allegedly dispatched to select third-party developers and employees, the Microsoft communiqué in question suggests that the XNA development language is about to be "retired" from a program that promotes Microsoft's own technologies. The XNA Game Studio software, it adds, is "not in active development".
If the email is legitimate, it could be an indication that Microsoft is about to either dispense with or replace Xbox Live Indie Games - a service which features games (including some very good ones) built using XNA. CVG sources express mixed feelings on the subject.
"What will be interesting will be to see if Microsoft replace XNA with another newbie-friendly technology, which seems unlikely, or if they will persist with XBLIG for the next-gen using their other technologies," one developer commented, on condition of anonymity.
"There's a lot of extra knowledge needed to make something workable and XNA was a managed language, meaning it was much harder to crash the whole Xbox OS via an XBLIG," he or she went on. "The same would not be true of the lower-level APIs that 'proper' game developers use.
"No-one wants to learn a dying technology, and a big part of XNA's appeal was the prospect of selling a game on Xbox LIVE, even if that wasn't the most commercially-sensible thing to do. If there are no advocates of the technology, and we infer from the lack of internal support in Microsoft that there will be no XBLIG on the next-gen machine, there is no-one to drive XNA adoption and no incentive to learn it."
Developer Bill Reiss offers a more positive view on his personal blog. "Overall I'd rather XNA was supported going forward, since I love the technology and there are a ton of existing games using it that would easily port to Windows 8 if the option was available.
"The reason I think it may be good is for the same reason that I think the death of Silverlight could be good, as long as something better comes out of it. Windows Phone 8 is very similar to Windows 8 for development and from what I hear the next release will converge even more.
"The best guess across the board is that the next Xbox will support a very similar programming model. If this is the case, we finally are at a point where apps that you write for one of the platforms in the Microsoft stack will easily port to the others."
Update: Speaking to Polygon, a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that there will be no future versions of XNA Games Studio.
"Microsoft is actively investing in DirectX as the unified graphics foundation for all of our platforms, including Windows, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone," reads the statement in question. "DirectX is evolving and will continue to evolve. We have absolutely no intention of stopping innovation with DirectX.
"XNA Game Studio remains a supported toolset for developing games for Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone," the representative added. "Many developers have found financial success creating Xbox LIVE Indie Games using XNA. However, there are no plans for future versions of the XNA product."