Microsoft to phase out XNA, could XBLIG be in jeopardy?

Microsoft is phasing out XNA, its tools and development environment for Xbox 360 and Windows, according to an email sent to XNA and DirectX developers.

The email was published in a post on Action = Reaction Labs CTO Promit Roy’s blog and reads:

“The XNA/DirectX expertise was created to recognize community leaders who focused on XNA Game Studio and/or DirectX development. Presently the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology.

“Given the status within each technology, further value and engagement cannot be offered to the MVP community. As a result, effective April 1, 2014 XNA/DirectX will be fully retired from the MVP Award Program.”

Microsoft subsequently followed up with Roy, sending a second email that stressed that there was no intention to drop DirectX investment and development.

“The [previous] message said ‘DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology.’ That is definitely not true in any way, shape or form. Microsoft is actively investing in DirectX as the unified graphics foundation for our key platforms, including Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows.

“DirectX is evolving and will continue to evolve. For instance, right now we’re investing in some very cool graphics code authorizing technology in Visual Studio. We have absolutely no intention of stopping innovation with DirectX.”

Even so, the news will come as a blow to indie developers who’ve taken advantage of XNA’s free tools and relative ease of use when compared to the lower level APIs traditionally used by larger studios.

It also suggests that Microsoft may have no intention of maintaining its XBLIG service – one that has been repeatedly marginalised as the Xbox dashboard has undergone its evolution – after the launch of its next console. It could, however, simply be planning to switch to an alternative framework.

“I have no problem with moving on to a new .NET-based game framework, even if they don’t call it XNA,” writes an indie developer Ian Stocker in the comments. “But I don’t see a solution like that in the current or upcoming landscape.

“I’m still using XNA for my next game, but I will definitely be on the prowl for a replacement framework. Given XNA’s popularity, my hope is that the developer community… creates something soon.”