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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 08:54 GMT
Xbox tests European online waters
Unreal Championship character
Unreal Championship expected to be popular
Microsoft is starting its online gaming assault in Europe with the launch of its Xbox Live service.

From 30 November, gamers in UK, France and Germany will be able to take part in trials of the service, ahead of the full commercial launch in March.

Microsoft is investing about $2bn over five years into its online gaming service, which lets Xbox owners challenge friends over broadband internet connections.

It hopes the Xbox Live service will help boost sales in Europe, where the console has lagged behind Sony's Playstation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube.

Online competition

Gamers interested in taking part in the beta testing need to buy a special starter kit costing 39.99 from the Xbox Live website.

Character from Xbox game Whacked!
Adopt a different identity online
The packs include the software needed to get playing and a headset that allows gamers to talk to each other.

Included in the price is a 12-month subscription to the service, beginning when it officially launches next year.

Microsoft hopes it online gaming service will help distinguish the Xbox from the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, its two biggest commercial rivals.

Sony is due to launch its online gaming network in the spring in the UK, followed by other European countries.

Gamers need to buy a network adapter to hook up the Playstation to a broadband connection.

Nintendo has announced it too will be selling an adaptor for its GameCube.

But the firm is far less ambitious with its online plans and is instead adopting a "wait and see" approach.

Good start

The online arena is shaping up as the next battlefield for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

SOCOM: US Navy Seals
SOCOM: 175,000 people playing the game
At the moment, income from online gaming is minimal. But some analysts predict that revenues could exceed $1bn by 2006.

Both Microsoft and Sony have had a good response to their online gaming initiatives in the US.

Microsoft said it had sold more than 150,000 Xbox Live starter kits in their first week on sale. It said more than 200,000 gamers had logged on to the service and started playing against each other.

In October, Sony said its Playstation 2 had become the leading online console gaming platform in North America and Japan.

It said that more than 175,000 people are playing regularly online the SOCOM: US Navy Seals online game in the US.

In Japan, more than 100,000 consoles are connected to the network.

The Playstation 2 is by far the market leader, with 40 million of its consoles worldwide.

In Europe alone, it expects to sell 13 million units by the end of the year. The other consoles are trailing in second and third place.

Market researchers expect GameCubes sales to reach 2.5 million, with Microsoft selling 1.5 million consoles by the end of 2002.

Euro Xbox
Will you be playing online?
Will you try the Xbox Live service?



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See also:

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