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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
Xbox Live sets European date
The Xbox
The Xbox has built-in broadband capabilities

Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, will launch in eight countries across Europe on 14 March, one year exactly after the Xbox console launched on the continent.

The service, unveiled at a theme park in Seville, Spain, will allow video game fans with broadband access to play games with and against each other across Europe.


We aim to be the world's largest online gaming community in just a few short years

Jay Allard
One of Xbox's creators
Microsoft hopes it will help distinguish the Xbox from Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube, its two biggest commercial rivals.

Xbox Live launches in the United States on 15 November and in Japan in early 2003.

Sony, which is the market leader with 40 million of its consoles world-wide, has launched its own rival service already in the US and Japan but has yet to unveil plans for Europe.

Nintendo has announced it too will be selling an adaptor for its GameCube but the firm is far less ambitious with is online plans and is instead adopting a "wait and see" approach.

Xbox Live will be available initially in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden with the rest of Europe to follow by the end of 2003.

'Broadband revolution'

Microsoft is investing about $2bn over five years into online gaming but financial analysts are yet to be convinced it will be a success.

PlayStation 2
PlayStation2 also has online ambitions
Broadband, which allows high-speed information exchange over a phone line, has yet to take off in great numbers in Europe.

Microsoft hopes its Xbox Live service will help kickstart the "broadband revolution" and boost sales - especially in Europe and Japan where it has performed disappointingly.

Jay Allard, one of the creators of Xbox, told assembled journalists in Seville: "We put our bet on broadband very early, some would say too early."

Microsoft's strategy differs from Sony - the entire online service for Xbox is available only through Microsoft while Sony is allowing game developers to set up their own online services.

Mr Allard added: "We aim to be the world's largest online gaming community in just a few short years."

Xbox Live will go on sale in Europe at a cost of 59 euros (39) and the service will include a headset, so gamers can talk to each other while playing, two games and a 12-month subscription.

In the long-term Microsoft hopes it will generate revenue from the service, with gamers spending money on improving features in games and up to date statistics for sports games.


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