Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Xbox Live to launch next month

ONLINE FUN Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand market share through lower prices and the rollout on April 30 of its interactive Internet-based games service


Microsoft Corp will launch its Xbox Live gaming service in Taiwan on April 30, giving local gamers the chance to interact with 750,000 Xbox players around the world, the Taiwan branch of the world's largest software maker announced yesterday.

"We're thrilled about the rollout of Xbox Live in Taiwan, and I believe the service will get a warm reception from gamers here," Eunice Chiu (邱麗孟), general manager of Microsoft Taiwan, told a press conference yesterday.

Xbox Live allows players to compete and communicate during games via 128kps broadband connections.

Subscribers can also download new content or gadgets such as maps, missions, songs, skins, vehicles and characters to their Xbox hard disks, she said.

While most Taiwanese Internet users have only 64kps broadband connections, Microsoft is offering a free NT$5,980-Xbox game console to anyone who subscribes to Chunghwa Telecom Co's (中華電信) 2M/128kps broadband connection next month.

Chunghwa Telecom is the nation's largest telecom company.

"The give-away will surely help bring in more members," Chiu said.

Microsoft expects the number of Xbox Live subscribers worldwide to hit 1 million by June, Chiu said. She refused to reveal how many Xboxes had been sold since it was introduced here in November 2002.

The give-away and Microsoft's low-charge policy suggest the company is keen to expand its market share. The Xbox Live starter kit, which contains a communicator, two new games and a 12-month subscription, costs NT$1,685 (US$51) in Taiwan, compared with US$69.99 in the US.

Its largest rival, Sony Corp, said it was unconcerned that Microsoft's Xbox may take market share from its PlayStation 2 (PS2).

"We know that online gaming is becoming prevalent, but it is focusing on PC online games rather than console games," Tetsuya Ogawa, a public relations official at Sony Computer Entertainment, said yesterday. "However, we look forward to seeing the market reception to Xbox Live and will then decide if we should also develop the sector."

PS2 outsells Xbox by 20 percent in Taiwan, Ogawa said.

Max Jen (任學璽), an editor of a Chinese-language gaming magazine, however, said online console gaming will take a lead in the industry, moving online gamers from their computers to their TVs.

Jen said the gaming industry is awaiting the release of True Fantasy Live Online, a multiplayer online roleplaying game for the Xbox developed by Microsoft Japan that may hit the Japanese market at the end of the year. Gamers can converse real time with earphones and a microphone. Players can even customize the appearance of their characters.

The game may be introduced to Taiwan next year after the company comes up with a Chinese interface, Jen said.

"Interaction and personalization are the key," he said.

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