Microsoft Corp.'s broadband-enabled gaming console is going online with a little help from Level 3 Communications Inc.
Under a newly signed deal, Microsoft named Level 3 as a major provider of network services for its online gaming service, dubbed Xbox Live, in North America and Europe. Level 3 will provide Center Colocation, CrossRoads Internet access and Packet MPLS private network services. Level 3's network infrastructure was chosen for its scalability, performance and flexibility, according J. Allard, general manager of Microsoft's Xbox Platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.
At its launch last fall, the Xbox gaming console came with a built-in Ethernet port for online game play, and Xbox Live is designed to take advantage of that built-in port. Microsoft first unveiled Xbox Live for its Xbox gaming console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May.
Starting this fall, subscribers can pay $49.95 a year to play against other Xbox gamers online. The cost covers a headset and voice chat, but not broadband access. Microsoft expects to support five exclusive games at launch — Unreal Championship; NFL 2K3; MechAssault; Whacked and NFL Fever 2003. The company plans to expand its offering to more than a dozen games by the end of 2003 and at least 50 by the end of 2003.
Microsoft intends to begin its beta program in North America, but says the service will be available to Xbox owners in Europe and Japan as well.