Though you might envision a "creator's club" to be some sort of blunt object used to beat beautiful games out of misshapen code, it's actually the next step in Microsoft's ongoing XNA initiative. The "community-powered arcade" is now within reach of any gamer and would-be developer willing to download XNA Game Studio Express (for Windows XP) and spend some time coming to grips with the Visual C# and .NET frameworks its based on.

Chris Satchell, general manager of Microsoft's Game Developer group, recounts Microsoft's cunning strategy of having one creative idea at a time. "When it comes to encouraging development on XNA Game Studio Express and through the XNA Creators Club, the limits are truly endless. What users will see today is just the beginning of the plans we have to revolutionize game development one creative game idea at a time."

Of course, you'll also want to make your masterpiece playable on an Xbox 360 ("playable" being the keyword so often forgotten by some developers). In order to migrate your game to the 360 and to gain access to samples, game assets and other goodies, you'll need to join the XNA Creator's Club. It's been added as a purchase on the Xbox Live Marketplace, priced at $49 for four months or $99 for an annual subscription. Early adopters will have an opportunity to get their games published on Xbox Live Arcade in a contest launching next month.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get cracking on your non-derivative 3rd-person shooter, Cogs of Conflict!

Download -- XNA Game Studio Express

[Full, slightly boring, press release after the break.]

Microsoft Releases XNA Game Studio Express and Launches XNA Creators Club, Enabling the World to Play Their Creations on Xbox 360

Global game development competition, "Dream-Build-Play," offers an opportunity for winner's game to be published on Xbox Live Arcade.

REDMOND, Wash. - Dec. 11, 2006 - Your World. Your Game. With today's release of Microsoft® XNA™ Game Studio Express and the launch of the XNA Creators Club, this phrase has never been more true. Based on the easy-to-use Visual C#® 2005 Express Edition and Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, XNA Game Studio Express opens up the world of game development to the masses and is now available for free to anyone with a Windows® XP-based PC at http://www.msdn.com/XNA. With the release of XNA Game Studio Express, Microsoft Corp. unveiled the XNA Creators Club, opening up video game development to untapped creative minds, enabling anyone to affordably build and play amazing game ideas on Xbox 360™ systems for the first time ever.

The XNA Creators Club is available on Xbox Live® Marketplace for $49 (U.S.) for a four-month subscription, or $99 (U.S.) for an annual subscription. Both subscriptions provide aspiring game developers with access to thousands of game assets from Microsoft and key supporters such as Turbo Squid Inc., as well as white papers, specialized starter kits, samples and technical product support to help turn Your World, Your Game into a reality.

"The XNA Creators Club is really the first of its kind - an opportunity to join a community of other developers who are empowered to bring their game ideas to life on a next-generation console system," said Chris Satchell, general manager of the Game Developer Group at Microsoft. "When it comes to encouraging development on XNA Game Studio Express and through the XNA Creators Club, the limits are truly endless. What users will see today is just the beginning of the plans we have to revolutionize game development one creative game idea at a time."

In addition, to celebrate the worldwide launch of XNA Game Studio Express, the "Dream-Build-Play" contest will be open to XNA Game Studio Express customers on Windows as well as those on Xbox 360 through the XNA Creators Club membership. The contest offers the opportunity for the community to showcase its innovation and talent to the world, culminating in the incredible chance for the winner's game to be published on Xbox Live Arcade, the premier source for downloadable independent, retro and original games. The "Dream-Build-Play" contest will be launched in January. Additional contest details will be available at http://www.dreambuildplay.com.

"Xbox Live Arcade has opened up a wealth of new publishing opportunities for established and independent developers alike, so it made perfect sense to also extend this privilege to hobbyists and amateur programmers," said Greg Canessa, group manager of Xbox Live Arcade at Microsoft. "We have a tremendous opportunity to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming talent through the 'Dream-Build-Play' contest, and we can't wait to share their creativity with our gaming community around the world."

To coincide with the release of XNA Game Studio Express, XNA supporter GarageGames has launched an open beta for its Torque X platform, including Torque Game Builder. Based on the XNA Framework, the easy-to-use Torque X tools bring drag-and-drop game development to Windows and Xbox 360. Final availability of the Torque X platform is scheduled for early 2007.

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq "MSFT") is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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Microsoft, XNA, Visual C#, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox Live and Xbox are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.