Microsoft Gives Xbox More Game

Microsoft Corp. says it will release 200 new sports, action-adventure and other video games this year for its Xbox video-game console and Xbox Live online gaming service.

At Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, the Redmond-based company also was unveiling new software to turn the Xbox system into a broader entertainment device, capable of showing digital pictures, storing and playing digital music and even doubling as a karaoke machine.

Microsoft brushed aside the news that the industry's top video game maker, Electronic Arts, is developing online games for Microsoft's chief rival, Sony's PlayStation 2 while continuing to ignore Microsoft's online platform.

Microsoft's new offerings include games to bring in new players as well as satisfy its current base of Xbox users, said Robbie Bach, senior vice president of Microsoft's Home and Entertainment Division and chief Xbox officer. Microsoft projects that by the end of June, it will have sold 9 million Xbox consoles worldwide since the November 2001 launch.

"Two years ago, we came here to announce Xbox," Bach said. "Last year, we were here to (say) we were here to stay. This year, we're here to talk about leadership and innovation."

The new titles include a beat-em-up game called "Grabbed by the Ghoulies" and an action-adventure game called "Kameo: Elements of Power."

The lineup also includes about 30 new games for Xbox Live, Bach said. The company expects to have a total of 100 titles for Xbox Live by mid-May 2004. The service, launched last November, has about 500,000 subscribers around the world, Bach said.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled its XSN Sports lineup, in which Xbox Live players can create their own leagues, teams and tournaments and play one another. It also announced new features, such as allowing gamers to receive invitations to join games on wireless phones and digital devices.

But Microsoft's new offerings will not include online versions of the blockbuster sports games made by Electronic Arts. The Redwood City-based developer of the popular Madden NFL and Tiger Woods PGA Tour games plans to debut its online versions only for Sony game machines.

Electronic Arts executives told the Wall Street Journal they decided to exclude Microsoft because the software behemoth was demanding too much control over Electronic Arts' games and wasn't willing to pay for their use.

EA is Microsoft's No. 1 game publisher, Bach said. But he said he is not overly concerned that EA is still refusing to produce for the online service.

"We'd love to have EA on Xbox Live and continue to work with them," he said. "It's an ongoing conversation, we have a very good relationship with them."

The games, particularly the new XSN sports games that allow the creation of virtual leagues, show Microsoft's efforts to bring in new users, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Forrester Research.

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