Microsoft closes doors on XNA development environment

By Peter Gothard
05 Feb 2013 View Comments
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Microsoft's XNA development environment - a platform popular with independent videogame programmers for the Xbox 360 console - has been marked for retirement by the company.

Further reading

In an email sent to Microsoft MVPs (most valued professionals) on Friday, Microsoft stated: "The purpose of the communication is to share information regarding the retirement of XNA/DirectX as a Technical Expertise."

The email continued to explain that "presently, the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology". The DirectX reference is a particularly interesting statement, as it suggests the withdrawal of another long-standing Microsoft technology.

Computing spoke to Hull University software engineering lecturer and Microsoft MVP Rob Miles about the changes.

"As soon as the Windows 8 SDK came out, and XNA was not one of the project types in Visual Studios 2012, then that was it; the writing was on the wall," said Miles.

"That was the point when XNA really died; that was the point when Microsoft decided that XNA was not the way and the truth for them anymore."

However, Miles plans to continue teaching XNA. He said the last version of XNA - version 4.0, which arrived in September 2010 - was "complete."

"It has all the bits you need now, before adding complication and dead weight to the platform," added Miles.

"I don't how whether it's good judgement, but I think basically they're having to think which things to target," he continued.

Miles said his XNA course for first-year students at Hull teaches "transferable skills".

"What we try to do at Hull is give people an understanding of how stuff works so they can take that and use it in whatever sphere they want to help them generate stuff." XNA still fits the bill here, said Miles.

However, Microsoft's statement about DirectX "no longer evolving" was, said Miles, "a really strange thing [to say]".

"I suspect someone's getting their botty smacked in the bowels of Redmond somewhere for saying that, because it can't be right," said Miles. "[DirectX] underpins so much of everything they do, that you can't turn that one off. It's baked in.

"What they probably meant is it's not a freestanding technology anymore - like we don't have a DirectX product line as such, it's just the graphical underpinnings," continued Miles.

"It would be bonkers [to cease DirectX development], because you've got game developers out there who spent ages devoting time to these kinds of engines, and they're not the sort of people you want to kick in the nuts. You don't want to piss those people off," said Miles.

As far as the future of XNA is concerned, Miles has his own theory on the possible direction of this "retired" platform. The company has already been touting its open source version of XNA 4 - the MonoGame platform, which is platform agnostic.

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