Xbox Live reaches 350,000 subscribers

In addition to easily finding friends and using voice communication across all Xbox Live games, players now can enjoy downloadable content, an exclusive feature that delivers new maps, missions, statistics and characters to the built-in Xbox (TM) hard drive, keeping games fresh even after a player has completed all the levels.

New downloadable content for “MechAssault (TM) ,” the popular Xbox Live-enabled game from Microsoft Game Studios, drove more than 172,000 downloads during the first week of availability. Xbox Live players from around the world had access to two new Mechs and two new levels. When Xbox Live launches in Europe on March 14, players of the best-selling Xbox game last holiday season, “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (TM) ,” from Ubi Soft Entertainment, will have access to a new level, Kola Cell, which requires players to utilize the game’s unique gadgets and the characters’ stealth capabilities to achieve the level’s four objectives.

In a recent Microsoft survey, 82 percent of Xbox Live users identified downloadable content as the most desired feature for Xbox Live. Game developers are keen to deliver downloadable content because it allows them to instantly deepen relationships with enthusiastic fans by extending the life of their titles.

“From day one, our mission has been to give players what they want next,” said J Allard, vice president of Xbox at Microsoft. “With the availability of downloadable content now on Xbox Live, we’re making a big step toward keeping gaming current and adding an additional element to the industry.”

Globally, Xbox Live is playing host to more than 3 million game sessions per week, with the growing Xbox Live community — which includes players from the United States, Canada and Japan — logging more than 15.7million hours of online play, or just shy of 1,800 cumulative years, in the first three months of availability. And with peak gaming times coming during television prime time, it’s apparent that consumers are fulfilling their desire for reality-based entertainment on Xbox Live, today’s true reality program. On March 14, the global Xbox Live community will span 11 countries, when players from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom will become Xbox Live-enabled.

In the first three months of availability, Xbox Live Starter Kits have outsold the number of Sony PlayStation 2 Network Adapters by nearly 44 percent. In addition, players are choosing to experience multiplatform online-enabled games on Xbox Live. To date, the Xbox version of “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (TM) ” from Ubi Soft has sold 35 percent more copies than the PlayStation 2 version.*

“Xbox’s online service and voice capabilities really enhance the experience gamers get when playing ‘Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon,'” said Tony Kee, vice president of Marketing for Ubi Soft Entertainment. “It’s the social interaction with other fans of the game that makes ‘Ghost Recon’ on Xbox Live so appealing.”

New exclusive game content for Xbox Live also will be available through retail channels, such as “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon (TM) : Island Thunder (TM) ,” an upcoming campaign disk based on the original “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon,” scheduled to hit store shelves this summer. The campaign disk will feature a new mission scenario, additional game types and 12 multiplayer maps for Xbox Live play, as well as four maps from the original “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon,” at a lower estimated retail price than that of a full retail game. Players who purchase the stand-alone product also will have access to future downloadable content, including new missions and maps.

Fourteen Xbox Live-enabled games are currently available, with 10 more scheduled to come online in the next two months.

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