Microsoft has been talking up the prospects for its Xbox online gaming service in Europe.
Thousands have signed up to Xbox Live
At a media event in Nice, France, Microsoft said that 50,000 people had signed up to its Xbox Live gaming service since its launch in eight European countries six months ago.
It also announced plans to extend the service to six more European countries by the end of October and offer free trials to try to tempt gamers.
"Xbox Live is the killer application not just in gaming but for broadband," said Michel Cassius, a senior Xbox figure.
Microsoft is keen to promote its dedicated online gaming service, seeing it as a key way to get more people to buy its Xbox console.
It is planning a major marketing campaign based around the idea of video games as social experience.
Gaming as a social experience?
"We will smash the myth of gamers as solitary misfits who would rather play against a computer processor than each other," said Peter Moore, Xbox corporate vice-president of marketing and sales.
He claimed that Xbox Live was the most successful online gaming service in Europe, with 50,000 subscribers who played one million game sessions every week.
Looking to the future, Microsoft is now aiming to build on this by launching the service in six more countries at the end of October - Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland.
In an attempt to attract more gamers, the software giant also announced plans to offer free two-month trial subscriptions with selected games and allow players to pay a monthly fee of £4.99 or an annual fee of £39.99.
"Online is essential to the video games industry," said Mr Moore.
Hearts and wallets
Microsoft is competing with Sony for the hearts and wallets of gamers. Sony has also recently ventured into the world of online gaming for its PlayStation 2, which is by far the best-selling console in the world.
Xbox is trying to seize the lead in online gaming, promising to have more than 50 Xbox Live games on the sales for Christmas, with more in 2004.
"They are covering all the scope of the gaming experience that people want," said Mr Cassius.
Among the key games Xbox is counting on for the holiday season is the third in the Rainbow Six action series, which will allow 16 gamers to play in the same game.
Next year, it is pinning its hopes on the sequel to the best-selling stealth game, Splinter Cell.
Xbox officials have described Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow as the first multi-player stealth game.
At the media event in Nice, dubbed XO3, Microsoft also announced it had signed a deal with game makers Epic to create titles for its console.