Microsoft's been talking this one up for some time now, but XNA Game Studio Express, the so-called "YouTube for games," has finally hit the big 1.0 and is now available for would-be game designers everywhere to get their hands dirty with. The software is a trimmed down version of the company's full-fledged XNA game devleopment platform, based on Visual C# Express and able to run on a standard Windows PC (XP for now, Vista later). The YouTube analogy is, of course, a bit of an overstatement as you'll need some honest-to-goodness programming skills to actually create something resembling a game. While the core software is available as a free download, to get the most out of it you'll have to sign up for the XNA Creators Club, which will run you $49 for a four month subscription or $99 for an annual sub through Xbox Live Marketplace. In addition to letting you play user-created games on an Xbox 360, it'll also give you access to a library of game assests, as well as sample products, white papers, and technical support. If you need an added incentive, Microsoft's also announced the "Dream-Build-Play" game design competition, though the only details they're providing at the moment are that you can win "fantastic prizes" and "global envy." Funny, we thought you needed a PS3 for that.

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Microsoft releases XNA Game Studio Express