For Microsoft, the goal is to inspire amateurs to share or sell relatively simple games on the company’s Xbox Live network. (Microsoft will not own any rights to products created with these tools.) Programs created with XNA Game Studio Express will not look as good as most packaged titles. But at a time when gamers seem tired of sequels and genre standards, the company says it believes that some kind of independent games business could provide a breath of fresh air. “We thought a lot about ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ ” said Scott Henson, a director for Microsoft’s game developer group, referring to the low-budget horror film that became a surprise hit in 1999.
And, of course, the company hopes the process of making games proves as addictive as playing them. “On the Internet, we’re going from a monologue world to a dialogue world,” Mr. Henson said, referring to sites with user-created content like MySpace and YouTube. “It’s amazing how much participation there is.”