MICROSOFT ROLLS OUT XBOX AT E3

New Game Console to Hit Stores Nov. 8

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com ) -- Those video-game enthusiasts wanting to know when they would be able to purchase Microsoft Corp.'s slick new Xbox game console
The $299 Xbox.
got their wish today.

Microsoft's Robbie Bach, Games Division general manager, told journalists and analysts at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, here that 600,000 to 800,000 units will be on store shelves Nov. 8. Mr. Bach projected that 1 million to 1.5 million units will be sold through the holiday season. The Xbox will cost $299, matching the price for Sony Computer Entertainment America's PlayStation 2.

Problems with supply
Bullish estimates aside, Microsoft has traditionally had difficulty supplying products in adequate volumes at launch. The latest snafu involved its UltimateTV product, which encountered a delay of several months before being released in March. Several of the company's software products have also suffered supply issues.

The $500 million global marketing campaign for Xbox, in development from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, will no doubt stoke demand.

But the console is nothing without the software, and Microsoft is promising 15 to 20 game titles for sale by Nov. 8. There was no word on pricing, but industry insiders say the titles will be at least $40-to $50 apiece.

Mr. Bach and software publishing executives played several of the Xbox games to showcase the console's power to bring characters to life, revealing their emotions, facial features and the richly textured landscapes and worlds they inhabit. Hinting perhaps of a marketing theme or tagline, Mr. Bach said, "Your games will never be the same."

80 exclusive games
Microsoft has 80 games that are exclusive to the Xbox in development, 40 of which are being created by third-party developers and the others by in-house studios. Microsoft said it has software developers from third-party publishers working on games that fall into all the major genres -- adventure, science fiction, combat simulation and more. Among the games previewed at the show and exclusive for the Xbox are:

  • "Halo," an epic sci-fi combat game, incorporating sophisticated mapping, produced by Bungee Studios

  • "Mad Dash," a combat racing game loaded with special effects and backgrounds, produced by Crystal Studios

  • "Pirates of Skull Cove," an epic action adventure game featuring a buxom, gun-toting heroine, produced by Electronic Arts' Westwood Studios

  • "Dead or Alive 3," a fighting game a la the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, sans the swordplay, that makes the WWF look like child's play, created by Tecmo, a Japanese publisher.

Sega President-CEO Peter Moore said his company will produce two exclusives for the Xbox -- "Crazy Taxi Next" and "House of the Dead 3."

Microsoft also said it is the exclusive developer and publisher of games based on Steven Spielberg's forthcoming movie, Artificial Intelligence. The first of those games are due out in June. Additionally, the Xbox will be the exclusive platform for games based on Bruce Lee films.

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