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 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 05:47 GMT
Microsoft talks up online gaming
Gates versus Laker star Shaq
Face-off: Gates versus Laker star Shaq on Xbox Live

Microsoft has been touting the success of its online Xbox gaming service at the Consumer Electronics Show, (CES), in Las Vegas.

"We have been amazed at the results of Xbox Live," said Bill Gates in his speech at the start of the event. "Sales of the starter kits have been doubled our original projections."

Xbox officials are promising a raft of new games in the coming year to rival the best titles currently on sale.

Microsoft is investing millions into fostering a network of gamers across the world, playing against each other on the Xbox.

Mr Gates joined in the marketing push at CES, hooking up with basketball star Shaquille O'Neal in Los Angeles to play a racing game live.

Playing for hours

Xbox Live was launched in the US on 15 November. It launches in Japan on 16 January and in Europe on 14 March.

We've established the Xbox as a player in the game console market in 13 months, despite Sony's two-year head start

Andre Vrignaud, Director of Xbox Live Technical Strategy
The service allows gamers to play games with other people via a high-speed broadband connection.

Figures released this week by Microsoft showed that more than 250,000 starter kits have been sold in the US, selling out in many stores.

Officials say Xbox Live has boosted the sales of games which can be played online, like MechAssault, Unreal Championship and Ghost Recon.

And once they are hooked up to the service, gamers are spending an average of 2.5 hours every day playing online.

Promising games

Microsoft sees online gaming a crucial to the future of the Xbox. The console has struggled to compete against Sony's best-selling PlayStation 2.

Halo for the Xbox
Halo has been widely praised
But officials are upbeat about the prospects for the Xbox, pointing out it is now outselling its rival, Nintendo's GameCube.

"We've established the Xbox as a player in the game console market in 13 months, despite Sony's two-year head start," Andre Vrignaud, Director of Xbox Live Technical Strategy told BBC News Online.

Mr Vrignaud admitted that the Xbox has faltered in Japan, saying this was a hard market to crack.

But he said Microsoft's recent acquisition of the game developer Rare was part of efforts to establish a foothold in Japan.

Mr Vrignaud said Rare was promising games that were even better than the first person shooter Halo, which has been widely recognised as one of the best titles of 2002.

Most of these games are designed to be played online.

Key games include the successors to Halo and the driving game Project Gotham Racing 2, as well as new titles to the Xbox like the team-based first person shooter, CounterStrike: Condition Zero.

Consumer Electronics Show 2003, Las Vegas

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See also:

15 Nov 02 | Technology
27 Sep 02 | Technology
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20 Dec 02 | Technology
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