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The First Comprehensive, Online Game Service Fully Dedicated To Fast­Action Broadband Gaming Experiences Is Now Available In Europe

LONDON, March 14, 2003 — Xbox today announced that Live gaming has hit Europe, with Xbox Live Starter Kits available at retail from today.

The service gamers have been waiting for, Xbox Live, is the first comprehensive, online game service fully dedicated to fast-action broadband gaming experiences. Gamers with an Xbox, a broadband connection and an Xbox Live Starter Kit will be able to come together online on Xbox Live to connect, play and talk with each other during their game sessions.

Xbox Live was officially launched in the UK last night with a celebrity gaming tournament that took place at the Tate Modern. Dynamic duo Ant and Dec competed with fellow gamers to claim victory. ‘Xbox Live is great because it means I can still play against Ant – but he doesn't have to come round my house any more,’ said Dec. ‘And I can still shout at Dec and hear his excuses as I whip him at Moto GP,’ said Ant, ‘But I don't have to see his ugly mug’.

Xbox Live has already garnered critical acclaim and a growing user base in both North America and in Japan. In North America, where it launched on November 14th 2002, gamers are having so much fun with Xbox Live that they’re spending an average of 2.5 hours per day Live gaming. Xbox Live-enabled titles (including those with downloadable content) led holiday sales – four of the top-six best-selling Xbox titles at Christmas were all Live-enabled including: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, MechAssault, and Unreal Championship (according to NPD data from November and December).”

In the UK, France and Germany, thousands of gamers have already experienced Live by participating in the successful European consumer beta and Test Drive phases. A survey of Test Drive gamers by Microsoft reveals that 96% would recommend Xbox Live to a friend, and 73% have played Xbox Live more than 21 times since setting up their account. These pioneers have made friends, fought against rivals and taken sociability to a new level on Xbox Live.

“Xbox Live is officially open in Europe, and it’s going to change the way we play games,” said Michel Cassius, European Director of Xbox Platform. “Live gaming is uncharted territory for most players, and we can’t wait to see friends connect and have rivals fight it out to become the superstars and heroes of Xbox Live. Our infrastructure is ready to go after rigorous testing, which has gone according to plan – hundreds of thousands of Xbox gamers have already been living Live. We’re thrilled to bring the next step in social entertainment and community to console gaming.”

With Xbox Live, players can now connect with each other across Europe, North America, Canada and Japan, chatting with old friends and meeting new ones to share game experiences online, no matter where they are or what time of day it is. With a broad line-up of sports, action, racing, first-person shooters and role-playing games set to roll out in the coming months, Xbox players will be able to test themselves against a wide variety of opponents on a unified service.

Today, retail outlets in the UK will start selling the Xbox Live Starter Kit for the special introductory price of £39.99. For the average price of a new game, the kit includes a one-year subscription to Xbox Live, the Xbox Communicator voice headset, and online demo versions of “MechAssault” (Microsoft Game Studios), “MotoGP” (THQ), and “Whacked!™” (Microsoft Game Studios), so players can start competing against their friends right away. All Xbox video game systems come with a built-in Ethernet port and hard drive, enabling any Xbox owner to plug into Xbox Live through almost any broadband provider.

Retail programs will be supported by a marketing campaign that will include advertising, retail communications and promotional activities.

The Games
As well as the special demo versions of “MechAssault”, “MotoGP” and “Whacked!” included in the Xbox Live Starter Kit, the following Xbox Live online-enabled games will be available at retail on 14th March:

“MechAssault” (Microsoft Game Studios)
“Unreal Championship” (Infogrames Inc)
“Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon™” (Ubi Soft Entertainment)
“Whacked!” (Microsoft Game Studios)
“NFL Fever 2003” (Microsoft Game Studios)
“Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO” (Capcom)

In addition, the following Xbox games, also available on the 14th of March, offer downloadable content via Xbox Live:

“Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell™” (Ubi Soft Entertainment)
"ToeJam and Earl III: Mission to Earth" (Sega Europe)
“MX Superfly” (THQ)

More than 50 Xbox Live-enabled games are scheduled to launch in 2003 and beyond, including Star Wars: Galaxies, Counter-Strike, Midnight Club 2, MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology 2, Halo 2 and Project Gotham Racing 2. More than 60 game publishers are currently working on Xbox Live-enabled games.

Gamers who sign onto Xbox Live will benefit from consistent features the service provides across games from all publishers, including:

Gamertag. Gamertag is a gamer's unique online ID for all games across the global gaming service, allowing gamers to have one persistent identity and to build their legend no matter what game they’re playing.
Friends list. This feature allows gamers to find friends online and invite them to a game — no matter which Xbox Live game they're playing.
Xbox Communicator. Voice communication is integrated with all Xbox Live multiplayer games and enables voice interaction with team-mates and opponents. Key elements of this feature exclusive to Xbox include voice masking, global muting and parental control.
Matchmaking. QuickMatch enables players to enter a multiplay experience with a single button-click, and OptiMatch, an Xbox Live exclusive, helps them select games and opponents based on similar skill levels.
High-speed content downloads to the Xbox hard disk. Only Xbox offers console gamers the ability to download and permanently store both free and for-a-fee content that can include new levels, characters, missions and statistics.

· Content Downloads. High-speed content downloads to the Xbox hard disk. Only Xbox offers console gamers the ability to download and permanently store both free and for-a-fee content that can include new levels, characters, missions and statistics.

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About Microsoft Game Studios
Microsoft Game Studios is a leading worldwide publisher and developer of games for Xbox, the PC and online platforms. Comprised of a network of top developers, Microsoft Game Studios is committed to creating innovative and diverse game portfolios for Xbox (http://www.xbox.com), including such franchises as "Halo," "Project Gotham Racing" and "Rallisport Challenge", and PC (http://www.microsoft.com/games/), including such franchises as "Age of Empires," "Flight Simulator" and "Zoo Tycoon".

About Xbox Live
Xbox Live is the first comprehensive, online game service fully dedicated to fast­action broadband gaming experiences. Xbox Live will allow gamers to play multiplayer Xbox games with other gamers everywhere via a broadband Internet connection. With a built­in hard drive and Ethernet port, the Xbox console was built from the ground up to be an online gaming system so there's no need to buy additional peripherals.

Xbox Live will enable all gamers to find and play with their friends easily; talk to other players during game play through the Xbox Communicator headset; and download current statistics, new levels and characters to their Xbox hard drive.

About Xbox
Xbox (http://www.xbox.com/) is Microsoft’s future-generation video game system that delivers never before seen gameplay experiences. With more than three times the graphics performance of other game consoles, top-quality DVD playback, Dolby 5.1 surround sound to make games and movies come alive, and a hard disc that opens up new kinds of gameplay, Xbox is the video game system that delivers more of what gamers want. Xbox is now available in Europe for an estimated street price of €249.99/£159.99.

About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software — any time, any place and on any device.