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Microsoft Releases 'Xbox Live' Details

by Rainier on Aug. 13, 2002 @ 8:23 a.m. PDT

Microsoft has revealed the official plans for its exciting online gaming initiative for the Xbox – Xbox Live. The Xbox Live service is scheduled to launch on November 15, 2002 (exactly one year after the US launch of the console) and the starter kit will retail for $49.95. This price includes the headset, a mini-game and one full year of active service (broadband-only).
Microsoft is expecting the starter kit to be readily available at over 5,000 retail stores and outlets across the country on the launch day. This will pretty much guarantee a huge number of units available and should see off fears of hardware shortages. The marketing campaign for Xbox Live is said to be a multi-million dollar event.

Features brought to the gamer by Xbox Live include:

  • Gamertag. A player’s Gamertag will be the same for all games across the global gaming service.
  • Friends list. Players will be able to find their friends online and invite them to a game, no matter which Xbox Live game they’re playing.
  • Xbox Communicator. Voice communication functionality is integrated with all Xbox Live multiplayer games, enabling teammates and opponents to speak to one another during games. Key elements of this feature exclusive to Xbox include voice masking, global muting and parental control.
  • Matchmaking. QuickMatch allows gamers to enter a multiplay experience with a single button click, and with OptiMatch, an Xbox Live exclusive, players will be able to select games and opponents based on similar skill levels.
  • Ability to download content to the Xbox hard disk. Only Xbox enables console gamers to download and permanently store both free and for-a-fee content that can include new levels, characters, missions and statistics.
  • There will be six games available at launch, including Ubi Soft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Infogrames' Unreal Championship. Next to enter the online gaming space is Sega's NBA 2K3 and NFL 2K3, and lastly, Microsoft's own first-party titles, NFL Fever and Whacked.

Microsoft's own mech title, MechAssault will be hitting the streets shortly after the service is released. 10 more titles will follow before the end of the holiday season and titles hitting in 2003 include Halo 2, Counter-Strike and Star Wars: Galaxies. Over 50 titles will be available during 2003.

Currently, over 100,000 gamers have applied to enter the Xbox Live beta test program. Microsoft stated that by the end of August, 10,000 of these applicants will be drafted fully into the beta test. The total number of beta testers will peak at around 30,000 before the official launch of the service. Further details regarding Xbox Live in Europe and Japan will announced in the coming months.

It is unconfirmed exactly which retailers will have Xbox Live kiosks, what games will be used to demo the service, and which ISP are partnering with Microsoft. The company said to expect kiosks at all the major gaming outlets, expect to see a wide variety of games being shown, and that it is trying to work with all Internet providers.

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