Microsoft bets on Xbox Live launch

Mon, 08/12/2002 - 8:00pm

Look out Sony Corp. and Nintendo, here we come, Microsoft Corp. says. To mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of Xbox, the software giant is aiming to take broadband-enabled gaming console online.

On Nov. 15, Microsoft will begin selling a starter kit for its online gaming service, dubbed Xbox Live, for $49.95. The kit includes a one-year subscription to the broadband-only service, the Xbox Communicator headset and a minigame. Although the online gaming service will only be available to users with a high-speed Internet connection, the kit does not include broadband access.

Microsoft has been trying to make up some lost ground on its closest competitors, Sony Corp. and Nintendo, after entering into the gaming arena late. Microsoft has sold nearly 4 million Xbox gaming consoles, and the company is hoping the online gaming feature will boost sales.

Sony plans to launch an online gaming service later this month for PlayStation 2 owners. Unlike Xbox line, the service will be available to gamers with a dial-up or high-speed Internet connection.

In July, Microsoft named Level 3 Communications Inc. as a major provider of network services for Xbox Live, in North America and Europe. The agreement calls for Level 3 to provide Center Colocation, CrossRoads Internet access and Packet MPLS private network services. Microsoft said it chose Level 3's network infrastructure because of its scalability, performance and flexibility.

Microsoft expects to support seven exclusive games at launch — Unreal Championship; NFL 2K3; MechAssault; Whacked!, NBA 2K3, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and NFL Fever 2003. The company plans to expand its offering to more than a dozen games by the end of this year and at least 50 by the end of 2003.


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