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Microsoft turns to Zune for mobile game edge

Xbox Live goes Web 2.0

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In the battle for gaming supremacy, Microsoft has finally deployed the big guns against the Playstation and Wii: Web 2.0 and the Zune.

Microsoft game developer group chief Chris Satchell told the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, California, his company is "democratising distribution" of Xbox Live games by giving developers the opportunity to punt their software through the Xbox Live network.

And, for an added, er, incentive, developers can port their software to the Zune mobile music player, which has struggled to compete against the iPod and other players, later this year. Version 3.0 of XNA Game Studio - that will work only with Visual Studio 2008 - will extend support to Microsoft's Zune player so developers will be able to build common code for Windows, Xbox and Zune.

If the idea of putting your hard-developed software on the Zune isn't sufficient incentive, Microsoft pointed to the fact the games market continues to thrive. The US market alone will be worth $18 billion this year. Its move to expand the Xbox Live "community" will, Microsoft said, help it keep up in an increasingly competitive market.

Microsoft laid the ground for "community" development of Xbox products two years ago when it launched the XNA framework. This .NET-based development platform made it possible for third-party developers to build Xbox games using XNA Game Studio - a game-building toolkit based on Microsoft's Visual Studio integrated development environment.

Under the new regime, planned for later this year, game developers will be able to load their games on the Xbox Live network for peer review and subsequent distribution to Xbox Live subscribers. Financial arrangements are yet to be finalized and are currently being worked out by Microsoft's lawyers.

The community and mobile gaming pledges came as Microsoft also renewed its commitment to the HD format used in the optional Xbox 360 DVD drive after Toshiba became the latest to abandon HD.®

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