Microsoft is celebrating strong uptake of its Xbox Live service in the US, where over 150,000 Xbox Live Starter Kits were sold within one week of the online multiplayer system becoming available to consumers.
The company considers this to be a major victory for its game division, and proof of its belief that Live would represent a killer application for the Xbox. It estimates that 200,000 players have already played online over Xbox Live, and claims that it is the first subscription based broadband service ever to pass the 100,000 user mark.
Predictably, Xbox Live enabled software has enjoyed a major boost in sales with the launch of the service, with NFL Fever 2003 being the largest winner – seeing a 120 per cent increase in week on week sales. More interesting is the 18 per cent rise in week on week sales of the Xbox hardware itself following the launch of Live, which builds on demand for the console already strengthened by the bundling of two Sega titles and the DVD remote control for free with the unit.
Xbox general manager J Allard played the role of Mr Statistics for Microsoft, pointing out gleefully that more people played on Live in the first week than attended the last two Superbowls, and that more games have been played in one week on the service than in the entire history of the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball combined. You can tell the man (or his press release writer) likes his American sports. This is just the beginning of the online revolution that will fundamentally change video games and digital entertainment forever, he continued, demonstrating ably that he likes his hyperbole as well.
The Xbox Live Test Drive begins in the UK, France and Germany this coming Saturday, November 30. The Test Drive phase will continue for several months before the official launch of Live in Europe on March 14 next year. Perhaps one of the most interesting questions which will be resolved by Test Drive is whether or not Xbox Live can hope to work on transatlantic connections, allowing Europeans and Americans to play against each other. Traditionally even broadband users playing PC online games have avoided this type of play, as high latency on transatlantic connections can render games laggy and unplayable. If Xbox Live solves this problem, it will be yet another key selling point for the service in Europe.