Microsoft releases updated Xbox Development Kit

Microsoft has quietly announced a new Xbox Development Kit for game makers.

The tricked-out pro console features more RAM for development purposes, built-in flash memory, a larger hard drive and is substantially smaller than its commercial cousin. Microsoft says it will be available at a significantly lower cost than its predecessor.

You'll have to be a paid-up member of the Xbox developer programme to get your hands on this bit of kit, but even then you'll need pretty deep pockets. Microsoft hasn't publicly announced the pricing - and probably never will outside of the developer programme - but used dev consoles exchange hands for thousands of dollars.

Those developers who do stump up the cash will also be able to license an optional 'Sidecar' attachment that enables debugging and disk emulation, and can be shared between multiple consoles, keeping the cost down for large studios with several coders working at once.

"Microsoft is known in the industry for providing easy-to-use tools that allow developers to create high-quality games without a huge time investment. Now we're offering those tools at a lower cost to reduce their monetary investment as well," said Pete Isensee, principal program manager for the Xbox Advanced Technology Group. "The redesigned Xbox Development Kit is also an indicator of our continued investment in the platform; it is one piece of our ongoing programs to support Xbox 360 for years to come."

The new kit will be made available to anyone with an existing licensing contract, and will eventually become the standard development platform.

If you haven't got barrels of cash and are interested in coding for Xbox, XNA Game Studio can be used with a standard retail Xbox 360 console to make 'indie games' for Xbox Live.