If you've ever had a hankering to write a shareware game for a high-end console (for instance the Xbox 360) then.... your dreams may soon come true. According to various reports Microsoft are about to release an "Express" edition of the XNA Game Studio.

One of the biggest problems with most of the game consoles in the past has been that unless you're a big development house with a significant budget then, until now, game development has been out of reach of the "small guy" with a cool idea.

Although developers will still need a US$99 membership of the XNA Developers community to distribute their game it's a huge step-up on what's been available in the past.

Hopefully it's going to see the arrival of a bunch of affordable, interesting games - perhaps something more than the usual crop of mayhen and destruction I can't let my 7 year old daughter play. The cool thing is the same toolset will be able to target WinXP (and presumably Vista). 

I wonder if this move will challenge Sony and Nintendo to release similar toolsets?