Microsoft's open development platform, XNA Game Studio, has now hit 800,000 downloads since it was first launched 18 months ago, however rival Nintendo is not standing still.

At the Game Development Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft's Chris Satchell said that the firm's game making tool had revolutionized the industry by democratizing development, and the numbers of downloads pointed to a lot of creativity and passion that we've tapped into out there.

In addition software maker is now working with over 400 universities using the software, which is designed for creating basic games quickly and effectively.

The Dream Build Play competition, which ran last year to promote use of the XNA platform, yielded over 200 game entries, and although only one was supposed to result in an Xbox Live Arcade title, the company decided to hire four people instead.

Community-designed games will be made available for free for the first time this year via the Xbox Live service.

Not to be outdone, Nintendo also announced its own community service on Wednesday, dubbed WiiWare, slated to launch May 12 for developers of its Wii game console. The service will allow game publishers to distribute new titles over the Internet directly to users, instead of on discs.

Early WiiWare games will come from developers such as Square Enix, famous for the role-playing game franchise Final Fantasy.

The Game Developers Conference is expected to attract over 16,000 game e developers will run up to Feb. 22.

See full GDC coverage here: