Hoping to boost sales in an ultra-competitive gaming console sector, Microsoft Corp. said it will mark the one-year anniversary of the Xbox by launching its much-anticipated broadband-only, multiplayer service.
On Nov. 15, Microsoft will begin selling a starter kit for its new multiplayer service, dubbed Xbox Live, for $49.95. The kit includes a one-year subscription to the broadband-only service and an Xbox Communicator headset that will be used by players to communicate with each other. Although the online gaming service will only be available to users with a high-speed Internet connection, the kit does not include broadband access.
Though Microsoft will be the first out of the gate with a broadband-only multiplayer product, Sony, late last month, began selling an adapter that will enable PlayStation2 owners to go head-to-head over dial-up and high-speed connections.
While Sony will rely on its PS2 game publishers to maintain their own multiplayer networks, the Xbox Live network, in contrast, will be closed. In July, Microsoft tapped Level 3 Communications as its network service provider for Xbox Live in North America and Europe. Microsoft said its broadband-only Xbox network will support more than a dozen games by the end of this year, and at least 50 by the end of 2003.
How console-based, multiplayer services will impact cable networks is still unknown, but operators have held discussions with Sony and Microsoft to determine how their consoles can be provisioned and monitored for the cable environment.