NEWS - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Xbox Live Europe beta going smoothly

Industry-Leading Online Gaming Service On Track To Hit Retail 14th March
LONDON, 27th February 2003 - Xbox, the video game system from Microsoft, today announced the Xbox Live Test Drive is reaching a successful conclusion as the retail launch of the revolutionary online gaming service draws near. The service is gearing up for retail launch in Europe exactly on schedule, after experiencing a smooth series of technical trials that will enable Xbox gamers to have an excellent Live gaming experience at launch. Since 28th November 2002, gamers in the UK, France and Germany have experienced the fun and excitement of the only comprehensive online game service fully dedicated to fast-action, always-connected broadband gaming experiences. Globally, Xbox Live is playing host to hundreds of thousands of unique users and more than three million game sessions per week. Geographical barriers have dissolved as friendships "and rivalries " have developed amongst people around Europe and the world. New player clans, catchphrases and online resources have sprung up, catering to the growing Xbox Live fan base. And now the fun really begins, as Xbox Live gets ready for its retail launch on 14th March 2003 in the following countries: UK; France; Germany; Italy; Spain; Belgium; Netherlands; and Sweden. More countries will be added to the list in 2003. Gamers Are Living Live A survey of Xbox Live gamers conducted by Microsoft has revealed that Xbox Live is a hit. Gamers in the UK were polled about their use of the service and favourite Live gaming features: 96% of gamers plan to recommend Xbox Live to their friends 97% of Xbox Live gamers were able to connect easily to Xbox Live, with no issues whatsoever Xbox Live gamers are bringing in friends to share the experience. 66% of gamers used the "guest" feature, which allows a friend to play without their own Gamertag. Many (44%) have played with 2-3 different "guests". Of those guests, 69% are "Absolutely" or "Highly Likely" to purchase Xbox Live themselves In Europe, MotoGP Online (THQ) is the most popular game in terms of unique users per day followed by Ghost Recon (Ubi Soft) and Unreal Championship (Infogrames). Gamers are spending the most time playing Ghost Recon, however (an average of 63 minutes per session), followed by MotoGP and NFL Fever 2003 (Microsoft Game Studios) The Voice Communicator, which allows gamers to talk to each other during Live gaming sessions, is an important part of the overall experience. 40% rate the Communicator as the best feature of Xbox Live, followed by Optimatch (18%) (the ability to find the perfect rival at your level) and having a persistent Gamertag (11%) (a unique identity that lets the player build his legend across all games) The majority (63% ) of gamers were able to play Live without having to resort to consulting the customer service helplines Xbox Live Test Drive has brought a passionate community of Xbox gamers online, playing great games like MechAssaultTM (Microsoft Game Studios) and MotoGP (THQ) with other beta testers. These Live pioneers have used the service to find their friends easily; talk to other players during game play through the Xbox Communicator headset; create a special Gamertag that is exclusively theirs and will stay with them as long as they"re playing Live; and start building their legend online. European gamers have been enthusiastic about Xbox Live: * "It’s so good to see that someone (Microsoft) finally takes us adolescent players seriously and that consoles are not for kids only. I really enjoy playing videogames with three friends. But I love playing them with 15 friends." "Signing up was quick and easy for Xbox Live (10 minutes). I quickly slipped into a game, there are hundreds of challenges available right away, and all my stats are put onto a huge scoreboard so I can see just how good or bad I really am." "The things that have surprised me most about Xbox Live would be playing people from France to Japan. This an exhilarating experience and one not easily forgotten. Of course the only problem with this is having your boyfriend ask you to stop playing and let him have a go." "Moto GP has been the most addictive game so far and it comes right out of the Xbox Live Starter Kit! The whole concept of this game is summed up with the word Brilliant!" "The communicator is the best gaming accessory I have ever had the joy to use. It’s as good as having a group of friends around in my front room without the mess and smell!" "Clearly, gamers love Xbox Live," said Michel Cassius, European Director of Xbox Platform. "The benefits of Xbox Live"s service-led approach, as opposed to an add-on peripheral approach, mean that the gamer"s experience is a better, smoother one " no lag associated with narrowband, no cheating and hacking because of a decentralised approach, and no individual logins or bills for each game. "Creating a service of this scale that is easy to set up and use is not an easy task, which is why we took a phased approach to launch," said Cassius. "We"ve drawn on Microsoft"s years of experience in technology and online gaming, and implemented a closed consumer beta testing phase as well as the Test Drive, which was open to all Xbox gamers in the UK, France and Germany. This approach has allowed us to iron out technical issues and bring a stable service to market, on time, that will deliver an outstanding game experience to gamers throughout Europe. We"re excited that Xbox Live has captured the imagination of so many, so early on." Xbox Live has already garnered critical acclaim and a growing user base in both North America and in Japan. In North America, where it launched 15th November 2002, gamers are having so much fun with Xbox Live that they"re spending an average of 2.5 hours per day Live gaming. Xbox Live-enabled titles (including those with downloadable content) led holiday sales - three of the four best-selling Xbox titles at Christmas were all Live-enabled including: MechAssault, Ghost Recon and Unreal Championship (according to NPD data from November). In Japan, where Xbox Live launched on 16th January 2003, interest has also been high, with more than 90% of all beta testers reporting they would purchase Live at launch. In the UK, France and Germany, gamers have already experienced Live by participating in the successful European consumer beta and Test Drive phases. A survey of European Xbox Live gamers by Microsoft reveals that 96% would recommend Xbox Live to a friend, and 73% have played Xbox Live more than 21 times since setting up their account. These pioneers have made friends, fought against rivals and taken sociability to a new level on Xbox Live. The Games Xbox Live gamers will have plenty of games to keep them busy at launch. The starter pack includes special versions of MechAssault, MotoGP and Whacked!, and there will be a host of fantastic games at retail available for Live play, including: "MechAssault" (Microsoft Game Studios "Unreal Championship" (Infogrames Inc) "Tom Clancy"s Ghost Recon"" (Ubi Soft Entertainment) "Whacked!" (Microsoft Game Studios) "NFL Fever 2003" (Microsoft Game Studios) "Capcom vs.SNK 2 EO" (Capcom) In addition, the following Xbox games, also available on the 14th of March, offer downloadable content via Xbox Live: "Tom Clancy"s Splinter Cell"" (Ubi Soft Entertainment) "ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth" (Sega Europe) "MX Superfly" (THQ) "It was important that gamers had not just one, but many titles to choose from, representing a good selection of genres," said Cassius. "One of the big benefits of Xbox Live is that the service is consistent from game to game, and gamers will see the benefits of this approach immediately." This is just the start of a great portfolio of games for Live, 2003 will see the launch of more than 50 Xbox Live-enabled games, including Counter-Strike, Star Wars: Galaxies and Project Gotham Racing 2. More than 60 game publishers are currently working on Xbox Live-enabled games.

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