Microsoft Gaming News

While Xbox 360 continues its global rollout to worldwide fanfare, Peter Moore reiterated Microsoft’s intentions to lead gaming to new heights with the Xbox and Windows platforms during his keynote, titled Changing World of PC Games, last Friday at the 2006 DICE Summit. Moore emphasized that the recent organizational re-alignment, coupled with knowledge gained from a successful Xbox 360 launch, enables the company to pave the way for a Games for Windows renaissance. As a games platform, Windows has always been the home of continuous innovation – multiplayer, mods, and mind-blowing graphics. Moore’s presentation provided perspective on Microsoft past, present and future efforts to bring game innovation across multiple platforms, including Windows PC, Xbox and portable devices.

The Xbox 360 Phenomenon

On track to meet our shipment goal of 4.5-5.5 million units by June, manufacturing efforts will be further boosted this month by third manufacturing partner Celestica, joining manufacturers Flextronics and Wistron in the effort to help feed gamers’ insatiable appetite for the next generation of gaming.

As we continue to ship new consoles to retail stores throughout the world, 11 additional countries are preparing for Xbox 360’s entry. Xbox 360 is now available in Mexico and Colombia as of February 2 – the first simultaneous launch for a videogame product in Latin America. The system will launch in Korea on February 24, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore on March 16, Australia and New Zealand on March 23, with a global presence in 30 countries by the end of March.

Highlights from the January NPD report include:

· Xbox 360’s software attach rate is 3.7 games per console. This remains the highest attach rate ever for the first three months of a console launch in the U.S.

· “Call of Duty 2” on Xbox 360 was the #1 selling title across all platforms in January.

· Xbox 360’s accessory attach rate is 2.9 accessory units sold per console with a wireless controllers attaching to almost every console.

Engadget – the highly respected technology/gadget blog that is the fourth most-visited blog on the Internet – recently named Xbox 360 as gadget of the year, topping Apple iPod, along with the award for console of the year.

Meanwhile, Xbox Live continues to lead the way online. On Xbox 360, more than half of all consoles are connected. This growing popularity continues to reinforce the notion that Xbox 360 is the only next generation console with an established, credible online service. Leveraging the expertise of Microsoft’s online infrastructure, the service continues to evolve and improve the gaming experience based on community feedback. Earlier this month, the Xbox Live team issued a free Xbox dashboard update to all Xbox Live members that included a series of improvements and enhancements. Changes in the update include:

· Improvements to the Xbox Guide.

· Option to retain your saved games when you delete a profile (i.e., improved logic around deciding whether a saved game should be deleted. The service also offers the option to delete only the profile, but leave all the saved data.

· Increased accuracy of "last time played."

Xbox 360 will have up to 50 high-definition games from the best names in gaming by June, including Bethesda’s “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter,” and EA Sports’ “Fight Night: Round 3.” You can expect a consistent release of titles well into the future representing all genres of gaming with 200 titles currently in development.

Gamers can look forward to a host of new Xbox 360 titles scheduled to debut in February:

* “Full Auto” (Sega)
* “Fight Night: Round 3” (EA Sports)
* “Astropop” (Popcap)
* “Feeding Frenzy” (Sprout Games)
* “Jewel Quest” (iWin, Inc.)

Tecmo’s “Dead or Alive 4” is winning the hearts and minds of gamers around the world. Gamestats.com posts that “DOA4” has received a 9.0 average rating from the 23 press sites polled, including a perfect 10 from GamePro. Japanese gamers can also look forward to “Ninety Nine Nights,” “Lost Odyssey” and “Blue Dragon,” a highly anticipated game from Mistwalker that was met with enormous fanfare from Japanese audiences.

Other Xbox games currently available worldwide have just won awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS):

* MGS’ “Jade Empire” – awarded Outstanding Character Performance: Female, and Role Playing Game of the Year honors by the 2006 AIAS Awards. Such credentials cap off a solid launch and overwhelmingly positive reviews from all facets of the media and multiple year-end awards and nominations.
* Reflexive Entertainment’s “Wik: Fable of Souls” for Xbox Live Arcade – honored as Downloadable Game of the Year by the 2006 AIAS Awards, an Xbox Live Arcade first, which recognizes the growing popularity of the service as medium that gamers continuously utilize for a comprehensible selection of downloadable games.
* Other award winning titles playable on Xbox included Activision’s “Call of Duty 2: Big Red One” for Story and Character Development, EA’s “SSX On Tour” for Sports Game of the Year and “Need for Speed Most Wanted” for Racing Game of the Year across multiple platforms including Xbox 360.

Games for Windows: The Renaissance

The games group at Microsoft focused intently on launching two generations of Xbox. The industry will soon see what Microsoft can do with the knowledge applied from the Xbox game platform to Windows gaming.

Microsoft internal research shows that computer users spend almost 20 percent of their time on the computer playing games – and that’s more than just Solitaire. Game playing is second only to Internet browsing, and twice as much time is spent gaming than doing email.

“Age of Empires III” has secured its place in history as the fastest-selling title in the franchise’s history, reaching more than one million units sold since its October release.

While recently released NPD data shows a continued decline for calendar 2005 retail sales of Games for Windows, the report did note that online revenue is growing. As a result, NPD’s Anita Frazier announced that NPD will be launching its new definition of the US PC game market this spring, which will include a combination of sales from retail, downloads, and both casual and MMO subscription revenues. “We expect this will add significant dollars to the PC game market size," said Frazier.

With increased demand for Xbox 360 and increased supply around the world, new games for both Xbox 360, Games for Windows and a growing online community, Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business is poised to deliver one-of-a-kind customer experiences throughout 2006 and beyond.

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