Funny Business with Jane Wells

Microsoft's Xbox Live: Now You Can Create And Share Games

After rumors of everything from partnering with Netflix to buying Epic Games (neither are true), the big news from the Microsoftkeynote speech at the Game Developers Conference: now you can create your own games and put them on Xbox Live to share.

The first set of user-created games is available for download now, including one called "The Dish Washer," created by a former student and dishwasher James Silva from Utica, New York. It's about a dish washer who fights off all kinds of evil enemies.

Microsoft calls this the "democratization" of game development and distribution. It's hoping to capitalize on the social networking and YouTube crazes with this initiative, called Community Gaming on Xbox Live--providing free game development tools from its XNA segment which allow anyone to create a game, and put it into the Xbox Live community.

This is a way for Microsoft to capitalize on user-generated content and further boost Xbox Live subscriptions (Sony's online gaming service, PlayStation Network, is free).

Microsoft is already outperforming when it comes to sharing. The company says 30 percent more videos are uploaded onto the "Halo" community of Xbox Live daily (100,000 videos) than are loaded onto all of YouTube-- this is a market the company hopes to grow.

Is this enough to secure the Xbox franchise in the face of things like the popularity of the Wii? More importantly, what about Sony"s now-ingenious decision to install Blu-ray DVD players in every PS3? Couldn't that make the PlayStation console a compelling buy, because you might also buy it as a home entertainment center?

Not surprisingly, Microsoft says no. The head of the company's interactive gaming platforms, John Schappert--an EA legend--tells me people buy game consoles for the games. "Keeping the flow of titles coming" is paramount.

Now the company hopes to stake out new territory by turning game players into game developers. Could "The Dishwasher" be the next Diner Dash?

Microsoft also announced that by using tools through its XNA Game Studio, developers can create games that can move from the PC to the Xbox 360 to mobile devices like...the Zune (remember that?). They demo'd a way to play a game on the Zune while also listening to your favorite songs.

UPDATE: Microsoft is also announcing new exclusive games coming out, sequels to past hits: its self-published sequels to "Fable" and "Ninja Gaiden," Epic's "Gears of War 2." And when Take Two's "Grand Theft Auto 4" comes out this spring, there will be exclusive downloads for the Xbox 360. Plus Epic demo'd amazing new graphics which make gameplay ever more lifelike.

There are 50 men to every woman at the Game Developers Conference. Even Fake Jane has a shot here.

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