NEWS - Friday, March 7, 2003

Xbox In The Arcades

Hoping to open another avenue for its video games and broaden its front in the war against Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft is expected to take its Xbox game console into arcades later this year. The project, code-named Chihiro after the heroine of the Japanese anime film ``Spirited Away,’’ has been in the works for a couple of years. Microsoft and Sega announced in fall 2001 that they would jointly create arcade machines based on the Xbox technology. But the partners have been quiet since that time. Now the project is closer to fruition. When Microsoft and graphics-chip maker Nvidia settled their price dispute on chips for the Xbox, the agreement included plans for the Santa Clara chip maker to provide Microsoft with chips for arcade machines. A Microsoft games source said the appeal of the arcade is the opportunity to sell more games and the chance to extend the Xbox brand as the coolest gaming experience. While hundreds of console games are released each year, only several dozen arcade games are released. The arcade titles influence the kind of console games that fans buy. Moreover, if Microsoft can get Sega to switch off its current Dreamcast-based arcade technology, dubbed Naomi, then it can lock up more exclusive titles that could be instantly converted to run on the Xbox. For the arcade product, Nvidia probably will supply the same graphics chip it provides for the Xbox home console. In part, that’s because the quality of the Xbox graphics engine is considered more than adequate to power a cool arcade machine, though the machine will have more main memory chips than the 64 megabytes in the Xbox to accommodate fast-action arcade graphics. Microsoft also will find other ways to stuff more capability into an arcade machine, which typically costs $4,000 to $16,000, compared with the $199 Xbox. Not wanting to be left out, both Nintendo and Sony also are working on arcade versions of their console machines. Sony has shown the ``Tekken 4’’ fighting game on an arcade machine based on the PlayStation 2, and Sega recently showed a version of its ``F-Zero’’ flying game running on an arcade machine based on Nintendo’s GameCube console. Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s top game developer and a senior managing director, said ``F-Zero’’ would allow someone to take a game stored on a GameCube and put it in an arcade system, allowing the player to resume a home console game on the arcade machine. Be sure to check out the rest of the article over at Silicon Valley.


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