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Obama leading McCain among Xbox voters. But will they stop playing long enough to actually vote?

Xbox controller

The presidential race between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama is a virtual dead heat in much of the real world. But it's not so close in one virtual world.

Obama leads McCain 43% to 31% among the nearly 100,000 votes cast as of Friday on Xbox Live, according to Microsoft, which runs the online game service. The voting is part of a partnership between Microsoft and Rock the Vote, which allows Xbox 360 users to cast their presidential preferences via their game controllers.

The initiative also allows Xbox Live members to register to vote for real. So far, 55,000 registration forms have been downloaded since the program began on Aug. 25, the first day of the Democratic National Convention. (You've got to be 18 to vote, but there's no age restriction on the Xbox Live poll.)

Rock the Vote, which mobilizes young people to get involved in the political process, wants to register 2 million young voters for this fall's election. The group noted that if XBox Live were a state, its 12 million members would make it the country's 7th largest, with the same number of electoral votes as Ohio.

But Xbox Live isn't a state in play. It's a state of play, where making a presidential choice can be done with a flick of the thumb in about the time it takes to slice up a Jawa in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Casting a real ballot is much harder: You can't do it from the comfort of your home; it often involves more cumbersome technology; and the lines can be long (for gamers who've never voted, think of the wait some people endured to get their hands on the Xbox 360 when it was released).

So although Xbox Live users represent a chunk of the youth demographic, which could swing key states such as Nevada, a big question remains: Will online gamers rip themselves away from the likes of Guitar Hero and Madden NFL 09 to go to the polls Nov. 4?

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Xbox 360 controller. Credit: Dominic via Flickr

 
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