A scheme operated jointly by the Victorian government, Microsoft and the Victorian branch of the Games Developers Association of Australia (DGAA) will put Xbox development kits (XDK) into the hands of local games houses at no charge.

Announcing the plan, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks said giving developers access to XDK was -the thing that really unlocks the potential for the future” of the local industry.

Three of the four large companies already exporting games from Australia are in Victoria, he said, and each new game represented an investment of up to AU$5 million and up to 30 new jobs.

This was the first partnership relating to games development between Microsoft and a government, he said. -This landmark agreement will help local companies minimise costs and provide them with a springboard into the global market.”

-We rely heavily on our local business partners,” said Steve Vamos, managing director of Microsoft, who said the announcement further builds on Victoria’s reputation as a leading centre of games development.

Alan Bowman, general manager Asia Pacific of Microsoft’s home and entertainment division said the recent announcement of Xbox Live represented -an incredible development opportunity” for local companies. -We’re going to see the creative talents of Victorian developers coming to the fore,” he said.

Day to day management of the scheme will be in the hands of the GDAA. Both established and startup developers may apply to use one of the 18 kits, but will be subject to staffing and cash flow requirements. Projects will be subject to a peer review process to ensure due progress is being made during the loan period.

A plan that provides Victorian developers with free access to PS/2 development systems was announced in October 2002.