Microsoft to launch Xbox Live on 15 November

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Microsoft will launch "Xbox Live," the online gaming service for its video game console, in North America on 15 November, the Xbox game machine`s one-year anniversary.

The service will require a $49.95 starter kit, which includes 12-months` access, a game and a headset kit for voice communications with other players.

At least six online-enabled games will be available for the console at launch, with about 16 by the end of the year, Xbox spokesman David Hufford told Reuters.

He said initial tests of the underlying network for the service will begin with about 10 000 people at the end of this month, though he said the network will be able to handle far in excess of the usage it will actually get in the early going.

"We will definitely be able to support multiples of what we bring in on day one," he said.

As for how many of the starter kits will be available that first day, Hufford said "that number will be dictated by (retailers)".

Microsoft competitors Sony and Nintendo also will enable online gaming for their consoles later this year.

Sony will release a network adapter for the PlayStation 2 as well as related games later this month, while Nintendo has not specified a release timetable for the adapters for its GameCube console.

While the Xbox has networking capabilities built-in, it only supports broadband Internet connections; the other two consoles will support traditional dial-up connections. The Sony adapter will support both, while Nintendo will release separate adapters for each connection method.

Video game hardware and software sales topped $9.4 billion in the US in 2001, with sales expected to easily break that record this year, driven by competition among the three consoles and growing mainstream popularity of games.

According to surveys by the game industry`s trade group, the Interactive Digital Software Association, as many as 31% of frequent game players say they play online.

Reuters News Service

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