"Microsoft Wasn't Prepared To Handle What They Accidentally Stumbled Upon"
George Clingerman, one of the Xbox Live Indie Game MVPs (a heroic mix of community managers, tech support and dispensers of invaluable advice to fledgling developers), has spoken out on Microsoft's decision to stop supporting the XNA Game Studio toolkit. Though he wasn't surprised by the move, Clingerman has been floored by the emotional outpouring from the "strong and passionate" development community that XNA helped to foster, and believes that Microsoft needs to "keep some corner carved out for indies" in the next generation.
Hear hear. You can read the full details after the break.
"Well my initial reaction was one of shock, but my shock was not at the announcement from Microsoft," Clingerman told Dealspwn.com in a statement. "I was shocked that the announcement that Microsoft was ending the XNA MVP program and that XNA was no longer in active development came as a surprise to anyone at this point. It has been over two years since we've seen any kind of update to the XNA framework (last non-phone update was in Sept 2010 and even that one was a lot of phone) and all of the lead developers on the framework had written blog posts in that time talking about how they were on new teams. I thought the dots were so connected that everyone kind of knew that it was no longer being worked on."
"Even when I wrote the article on Dealspwn in 2011 defending XBLIGs, I focused on XBLIG and didn't talk about XNA."
Despite his zen reaction to the news, Clingerman was quick to point out that XNA and the Xbox Live Indie Games service was more than just a marketplace: it was a real community, a vibrant and active collective of developers who were empowered with convenient tools and platforms to create games that they'd otherwise never have been able to make.
"My second reaction was extremely emotional," he continued." I thought I had already made my peace with XNA but seeing the community discuss, talk and then that dang #becauseofXNA tag brought back a lot of memories and brought some tears to my eyes. XNA and the community around it was something special and I've been trying for a while now to figure out what I'm going to do now that's gone. I got my tattoo just for that reason. I always want to remember this community and just what a life changing impact this game development framework had on me. It's been emotional seeing what an impact it had on everyone. It's surprising that a game development framework could do that, but it did. It changed lives."
Looking forward, Clingerman believes that Microsoft will try and support indie development with their next-gen console, but that they'll need to learn from some of their mistakes and may have trouble replicating the perfect storm of passion and talent.
"I believe that Microsoft wasn't prepared to handle what they had accidentally stumbled upon with XNA. A strong and vibrant development community excited and passionate about game development. I'm honestly not sure they'll stumble across that formula again. It was a special moment in time with the right mixture of people, hardware and technology. If they do, I hope I'm part of it but I really do feel like I got to be part of something special that just won't happen again."
"I think that Microsoft will try and keep some corner of the world carved out for Indies. I don't know what that will be but I see all the major players doing it (Nintendo, Sony, Steam, Google/Android, Apple and even newcomers like Ouya) so I can't see Microsoft stepping away from that market (both from a consumer and developer standpoint). They'll have to stay involved to be competitive. I just hope they've taken notes from XNA/XBLIG and come out with something that tops those products."
The future is uncertain for Xbox Live Indie Games. Perhaps the decline of XNA will make room for a new game studio designed specifically for Windows 8 devices, or perhaps Microsoft will be unwilling to throw publicity and resources behind the service. Either way, we wish the developers, and the MVPs, the very best. We've reached out to some other developers for comment and will update when possible.