An internal Microsoft email has revealed the full extent of the company's plan to phase out XNA; its development framework that had become popular among numerous indie developers.
The email, which CVG has published in full below, shows Microsoft will "retire" XNA and DirectX from its 'MVP Award Program' - an important Microsoft reward initiative for developers who wish to become evangelists for various technologies.
"The purpose of the communication is to share information regarding the retirement of XNA/DirectX as a Technical Expertise," read the email.
"Presently, the XNA Game Studio is not in active development and DirectX is no longer evolving as a technology."
In the long-term this would mean that the development framework will be less and less relied upon for developing Xbox games. But it is possible, and now speculated, that Microsoft is preparing a replacement as opposed to outright shutting down its own access to a pool of indie talent.
"DirectX is the world's leading low-level interface for gaming and graphic. Microsoft is actively investing in DirectX as the unified graphics foundation for all of our platforms, including Windows, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone. DirectX is evolving and will continue to evolve. We have absolutely no intention of stopping innovation with DirectX."
It added: "XNA Game Studio remains a supported toolset for developing games for Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone. There are hundreds of XNA games available on Windows Phone and thousands of XNA titles available on Xbox 360. Games built with XNA run without changes on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8."]
One development source told CVG that the phase-out of XNA could be an omen for the removal of the Xbox Live Indie Games service.
"What will be interesting will be to see if Microsoft replace XNA with another newbie-friendly technology, which seems unlikely, or if they will persist with XBLIG for the next-gen using their other technologies," the person said.
"There's a lot of extra knowledge needed to make something workable and XNA was a managed language, meaning it was much harder to crash the whole Xbox OS via an XBLIG - the same would not be true of the lower-level APIs that 'proper' game developers use.
"No-one wants to learn a dying technology, and a big part of XNA's appeal was the prospect of selling a game on Xbox LIVE, even if that wasn't the most commercially-sensible thing to do. If there are no advocates of the technology, and we infer from the lack of internal support in Microsoft that there will be no XBLIG on the next-gen machine, there is no-one to drive XNA adoption and no incentive to learn it."
Meanwhile, in the letter Microsoft also appeared to be distancing itself from the DirectX API - claiming that the tech is "no longer evolving". However, a US based company representative told Polygon that there are no plans to discontinue the use of DirectX.
Microsoft's XNA email in full:
"Our goal is to provide you the best experience during your award year and when engaging with our product groups. The purpose of the communication is to share information regarding the retirement of XNA/DirectX as a Technical Expertise.
"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.
"Because we continue to value the high level of technical contributions you continue to make to your technical community, we want to work with you to try to find a more alternate expertise area. You may remain in this award expertise until your award end date or request to change your expertise to the most appropriate alternative providing current contributions match to the desired expertise criteria. Please let me know what other products or technologies you feel your contributions align to and I will review those contributions for consideration in that new expertise area prior to the XNA/DirectX retirement date.
"Please note: If an expertise change is made prior to your award end date, review for renewal of the MVP Award will be based on contributions in your new expertise.
"Please contact me if you have any questions regarding this change."