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The Future of XNA Game Studio and Windows 8

Games built on Microsoft's toolset will work on Windows 8, but there's a catch.

Fez has been in development for nearly five years, all thanks to XNA Game Studio.
Fez has been in development for nearly five years, all thanks to XNA Game Studio.

We're all looking forward to Fez, right?

Phil Fish's mind bender was built on XNA Game Studio, Microsoft's widely applauded development toolset. Every game that's published within Xbox Live's Indie Games store was created using XNA.

Microsoft started rolling out details on the next iteration of Windows 8 this week, the latest update to its operating system. Tested's Will Smith has a detailed writeup of an early build that's surprisingly promising, but game developers became vocal on Twitter this week over word coming down that XNA wouldn't work in Windows 8--at all.

That's only partially true. Here the statement Microsoft provided to me:

“XNA Game Studio remains the premier tool for developing compelling games for both Xbox LIVE Indie Games and Windows Phone 7; more than 70 Xbox LIVE games on Windows Phone and more than 2000 published Xbox LIVE Indie Games have used this technology. While the XNA Game Studio framework will not be compatible with Metro style games, Windows 8 offers game developers the choice to develop games in the language they are most comfortable with and at the complexity level they desire. If you want to program in managed C#, you can. If you want to write directly to DirectX in C++, you can. Or if you want the ease of use, flexibility, and broad reach of HTML and Javascript, you can use that as well. Additionally, the Windows 8 Store offers the same experience as the current App Hub marketplace for XNA Game Studio, providing a large distribution base for independent and community game developers around the world.”

Here's what that means: XNA cannot be used to create "Metro" style software, so anything built on XNA cannot be sold in the "Metro" application store rolling out alongside Windows 8. It's still an unfortunate turn of events, as the new "Metro" layout is the centerpiece of Windows 8 and epitomizes Microsoft's big push to spin its new interface across multiple platforms.

"Metro" applications are not meant to as ambitious as traditional applications--more focused, directed. And as Microsoft points out, there is still a marketplace for their wares, in addition to the regular ol' Internet.

If developers want to continue working with XNA, those games will play just fine within Windows 8, but if they'd like to be part of the "Metro" storefront, they'll have to turn towards other options. It's not the best scenario, but it's not the worst, either.

To get a better sense of Windows 8 and Microsoft's new "Metro" layout, watch Tested's hands-on.

Patrick Klepek on Google+