Microsoft will offer a consumer version of the software used by professional game developers to create games for the Xbox360.

The tools program will be called XNA Game Studio Express. Although the software itself will be offered as a free download, in order to publish the games, amateur developers will have to pay a $99 a year subscription fee.

The subscription will give them access to the "Creators Club", which may get a name change before the official launch.

Microsoft executive Peter Moore has called the network a YouTube for videogamers.

The tools are much simpler than the professional set, which sells for tens of thousands, but some programming skills and knowledge will be necessary, even for the consumer software.

Microsoft's plans include releasing additional software for gamers to improve their developing games, and down the road, to support a community of gamers sharing their own games and giving feedback on what they like and don't like.

According to the software company, 10 US universities plan to integrate XNA Game Studio Express software in the curriculum for student developers.

The gamers who release their games in the "Creators Club" network will own the rights to them.