REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 13, 2002 — On Friday, Nov. 15, the one-year anniversary of the launch of the most powerful video game system on the planet, Microsoft Corp. will launch its Xbox™ Live online game service and propel the North American gaming world into the future of video games.
At launch, more than 5,000 North American retail outlets will begin selling the Xbox Live Starter Kit for a suggested price of $49.95 (U.S.). For the price of a new game, the kit includes a one-year subscription to the broadband-only service, the highly anticipated Xbox Communicator headset and a minigame so gamers can start playing with their friends right away. Retail programs will be supported by+ a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that will include advertising, retail communications and promotional activities.
In addition, at least seven Xbox Live-enabled games are currently scheduled to be available on Nov. 15, with up to 10 more to follow by the end of the holiday season. Scheduled launch games for Xbox Live are “Unreal Championship” from Infogrames Inc.; “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon” from Ubi Soft Entertainment; SEGA Sports™ “NFL 2K3” and SEGA Sports™ “NBA 2K3” from Sega®; and “Whacked!™,” “MechAssault™” and “NFL Fever 2003” from Microsoft Game Studios. More than 50 Xbox Live-enabled games will launch during 2003, including “Halo™ 2,” “Counter-Strike,” “Midtown Madness® 3” and “Star Wars® Galaxies: Empire Divided™” from LucasArts Entertainment Company. More than 60 game publishers are currently working on Xbox Live-enabled games.
“We designed Xbox from day one to catapult console gamers online,” said J Allard, general manager of Xbox at Microsoft. “Xbox Live is the answer for gamers who want to take this next leap forward. Last year at this time, we took gaming to the next level by launching Xbox; now we’re in concert with our partners and the industry to ensure that Nov. 15 will once again be a great day for gamers and the industry. Xbox Live is the first unified gaming service that takes gamers beyond the box to a global gaming arena where they become the superstars.”
The Xbox Live service was part of the initial design of the Xbox console, taking into consideration specific feedback Microsoft received directly from gamers and game developers about what they wanted and expected from an optimal online gaming experience. Key to the service is the support of four datacenters: two in Seattle, and one each in London and Tokyo. These datacenters will enable Microsoft to assist publishers by managing the hosting, networking, security and billing so game creators can focus on awesome game content, and gamers can be comfortable with a single bill for all gameplay. In addition, gamers will benefit from key, consistent features of the Xbox Live service across games from all publishers, including these:
• Gamertag. A player’s Gamertag will be the same for all games across the global gaming service.
• Friends list. Players will be able to find their friends online and invite them to a game, no matter which Xbox Live game they’re playing.
• Xbox Communicator. Voice communication functionality is integrated with all Xbox Live multiplayer games, enabling teammates and opponents to speak to one another during games. Key elements of this feature exclusive to Xbox include voice masking, global muting and parental control.
• Matchmaking. QuickMatch allows gamers to enter a multiplay experience with a single button click, and with OptiMatch, an Xbox Live exclusive, players will be able to select games and opponents based on similar skill levels.
• Ability to download content to the Xbox hard disk. Only Xbox enables console gamers to download and permanently store both free and for-a-fee content that can include new levels, characters, missions and statistics.
To date, more than 100,000 gamers have signed up for an opportunity to be beta testers for the Xbox Live service. Later this month, more than 10,000 of these gamers will be selected to participate in the final stage of the beta test.
Details for the Xbox Live service launch in Japan and Europe will be announced in those markets in the coming months.