Microsoft Expands European Roll-Out of Net Gaming

Microsoft Corp. said on Wednesday it would roll out its Xbox Live online gaming service in six new western European markets next month as it looks to extend its lead over rival Sony in the nascent sector. Online gaming is seen as an important emerging market for video game publishers and console makers looking to charge subscriptions for multi-player action -- enabling several people to play against one another over an Internet connection. On October 30, Xbox Live will make its debut in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland, bringing the number of western European markets to 14.

Microsoft and Sony Corp have led the way in online gaming, signing up over one million subscribers between them in the United States since launching in the second half of 2002. Take-up in Europe has been slower. In June, Microsoft said it signed up 50,000 European gamers to Xbox Live while Sony said last month it had signed up 25,000 European gamers since launching in June. Neither company offered an updated subscriber figure on Wednesday. Both Microsoft and Sony sell online adapter kits with Sony's carrying a UK suggested retail price of 23 pounds ($36.86) and Microsoft charging 39 pounds in the UK and 59 euros ($66.25) in Continental Europe.

News source: Reuters

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