Last month Microsoft announced that the Express Editions of Visual Studio 2005 are now free forever. This is great news for anyone looking for a low-cost way to get into game development on the Windows platform. Linux and Mac OS X have both provided free developer tools, it's about time Microsoft started catching up.
Although targeted mainly at student and hobbyist programmers, the Express Editions can also be used for commercial development. The Express Editions also include the optimizing compiler and can be used for both .Net and traditional Windows development. The only things missing from Visual C++ 2005 Express are MFC and ATL. This comes from Microsoft's Express Edition FAQ.
If this sounds good to you, head over to the Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition Download page and get started. You'll also need to download the Platform SDK and make a few configuration changes, but the instructions on that page are pretty easy to follow.
As a result of this, I will be updating all of my tutorials to cover Visual C++ 2005 on Windows as well as the GNU tools on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. I'll also update the Lua tutorials to cover version 5.1 while I'm at it.