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Create-your-own Xbox games

Lisa Napoli Aug 14, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: You’ve might have heard of the Linux operating system. Software some guy wrote and threw out on the Web so that anybody could fiddle with it, tweak it and theoretically make it better. That’s not necessarily a good way to make money, but you follow the general idea, right? Counting on other people’s expertise to improve a product. Now think for a second about computer games, a multi-billion dollar industry, always on the look-out for new talent. People who can design the new thing. If you’re the creative type, Microsoft has something right up your alley. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli has details.

LISA NAPOLI: Starting later this month, the house of Gates will sell new software for 99 bucks that’ll allow you to make your own video games. That is, if you have a PC and a Microsoft X-box and you’re so inclined.

Chris Grant of the gaming blog Joystiq.com says he thinks a lot of people will be. The X-Box isn’t the most popular gaming console out there, but this product could change that:

CHRIS GRANT: If their follow-through matches their ambition on this, I would assume it’ll also be a huge success. . . . People are going to be able to create games, upload games, you can download your friends’ games, watch other peoples’ games. Certain games could get really popular. They’d even create some kind of marketplace so people could purchase and sell games.

Just like the cheap home video camera allowed people to make films, and the Internet let them post them for all the world to see, Microsoft’s hoping its move will democratize the $7 billion business of game-making.

Chris Swain teaches game development at the University of Southern California. He says the new program will also give Microsoft a window to scout new talent and ideas:

CHRIS SWAIN: The more developers they have on the platform, the more likely they’re going to get good content on the platform. Those people will be starting out doing maybe things on their own, but then maybe they’ll be the ones building the big Triple-A titles in a few years as well.

Those Triple-A titles are the video game equivalent of the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Given how the gaming industry continues to capture entertainment dollars and time — more than half of Americans play them — today’s move could give the mighty Microsoft a lock on something other than the desktop.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napolli for Marketplace.

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