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Microsoft's Xbox 360 takes off

July 14, 2008 |  2:36 pm
Xbox 360 sponsors new soccer team

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post included a typo. Final Fantasy XIII, not XXIII, is joining the Xbox 360 lineup.

UPDATED 2:35 P.M.: Over lunch, Microsoft executives fleshed out the Xbox/Netflix arrangement announced this morning at the video game industry's annual event, the E3 Media & Business Summit, here in Los Angeles.   

The Xbox/Netflix announcement is part of a battle being waged over which device and service will be the entertainment hub in people's homes. For those who want to watch movies downloaded from the Internet on their TVs, having an Xbox will make it easier, executives said. (Netflix already has a partnership with a company it backed called Roku that sells a box that also streams video content from Netflix over the Internet and on to television sets).

Although the Xbox Live online platform has had video content, Microsoft's partnership with Netflix, which built its business sending DVDs through the mail, will add 10,000 movies and TV shows. The Netflix service will be available free to people who pay for the premium Xbox Live Gold membership, which cost $50 a year, and who are also Netflix members. Microsoft said a majority of its 12 million Xbox Live members pay the annual fee but did not say exactly how many.

Microsoft executives said they were continuing their PacMan-like gobbling of games, wooing developers who were once close allies with Sony's PlayStation platform. 

Today Microsoft added more friends to its lineup, including Capcom Entertainment Inc., which will bring its Resident Evil franchise for the first time to the Xbox. Also joining the Xbox lineup is Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIII. The franchise that has shipped more than 85 million units.

"Final Fantasy joins a list of former PlayStation franchises finding a new home on Xbox 360," said Don Mattrick, Microsoft's senior vice president for interactive entertainment. 

-- Alex Pham

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Get your Netflix through Xbox Live.

At the E3 video game industry conference, Microsoft announced a partnership with Netflix, the video store, that enhances the ability to watch video on the Xbox 360 video game console. The deal doubles the number of TV shows and movies available on the online game network Xbox Live, Microsoft executives said. 

Microsoft also gave out some gaming data: Xbox Live now boasts 12 million members on the online game network, double last year's membership. Microsoft said those members had spent $1 billion on downloadable games, movies and TV shows since the game network was introduced two years ago.

Microsoft said it had sold 10.3 million of its Xbox 360 consoles in North America since launching in November 2005. Executives onstage here boldly predicted that they would ultimately sell more consoles than Sony's PlayStation 3.

And the Xbox is a force to be reckoned with in music. Microsoft's Shane Kim said Xbox Live accounted for 80% of all songs downloaded through the hit games "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band."

On Sunday, Microsoft announced that it was trimming the price of its 20-gigabyte console to $300. It also unveiled its Xbox 360 Pro system with a 60-gigabyte hard drive, to go on sale in August, at $349. That's a hunk of a hard drive, the better for downloading movies and TV shows. To that end, Microsoft said the NBC Universal studio would start offering content for downloading, joining Walt Disney Co. and ABC.

Microsoft showed off a new look for Xbox Live that will be deployed through a software update this fall. The new interface includes a 3-D appearance and the introduction of avatars representing players and their friends. Groups can stay together and view photo streams and play, among other things, new game shows on "Xbox Live Primetime" this fall.

Microsoft took the stage at the 14th annual E3 conference, put on by the Entertainment Software Assn., at a time when the video game industry is going through growing pains. But for Microsoft, it was a day to crow about the growth.

-- Alex Pham and Joseph Menn

Photo: The new jersey of the Seattle Sounders FC with Xbox 360 as the sponsor. Photo: Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

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