Microsoft has officially launched XNA Game Studio Express. The software will allow average joes the ability to write Xbox 360 and PC games using DirectX and the full set of libraries across the two platforms.
The XNA Express platform is built on Visual C# Express, which is free to download from Microsoft. The Windows runtime environment is also free to download - so you can get creating shareable Windows games in next to no time.
If you want to create Xbox 360 games, or share games with the 360, you'll need to subscribe to the XNA Creators Club, which costs $99 for a year - not too shabby.
The same code will work across both the 360 and Windows - one of the big advantages of the XNA development platform, which does all the platform specific compilation itself.
Microsoft is insisting that anybody wishing to share games for the 360 with friends release the source code to those friends for them to compile manually - meaning that they must also be Creators Club members. It's also an interesting way to avoid gamers creating proprietary / paid for games, since the source code will be out there for anyone to compile. An interesting move in the direction of Open Source, or a way of making sure top talent signs up to the Xbox Live Marketplace?
This is clearly a big move for Microsoft - most console manufacturers go out of their way to prevent gamers running their own games on such platforms. For Microsoft to open up in this way is quite spectacular, and could be a massive boon to the indie development scene, allowing kids and students and enthusiasts to get programming for two important platforms.
Check out the XNA Express FAQ
and let us know your thoughts over in the forums.