Xbox Live Sets New Online Gaming Benchmark

This press release just went out. Some great stuff in here!

[start press release]

Xbox Live Sets New Online Gaming Benchmark
Xbox Popularity Rises With Steady Market Share Growth in 2004

REDMOND, Wash. ?” Jan. 20, 2005 ?” Coming off one of the hottest holiday seasons for video game software sales in history, Microsoft Corp. today announced that its Xbox Live” online gaming service has set a new standard with more than 1.4 million members, exceeding expectations and cementing its leadership position in the digital entertainment landscape. This additional news comes on the heels of 14 consecutive months of increased market share for Xbox, the only console to see an increase of market share in 2004.

?oOur consumers are passionate about online gameplay and seek larger-than-life digital entertainment experiences,? said Robbie Bach, senior vice president of the Home and Entertainment Division and chief Xbox officer at Microsoft. ?oWe will continue to offer our thriving community best-in-class games, downloadable content, unique programming, and the expanded features and services found only on Xbox and Xbox Live.?

The success of Xbox Live reinforces a stellar holiday season for the Xbox platform, which saw Xbox lead competitors in consoles sales, according to recently released data from NPD Funworld.* Other highlights from NPD Funworld include these:

? Monthly share for Xbox has grown year-to-year every month for 14 consecutive months, climbing 11 share points to 37 percent in December.

? Xbox was the only platform to see year-to-year growth during the fourth quarter of 2004 and the full calendar year 2004, while Xbox competitors and the overall market declined year over year for both time periods.

? Xbox annual 2004 console unit market share increased an impressive 12 points compared with 2003 and ended the year with a 37 percent share.

? Xbox had three titles in the top 10 in December: No. 4, ?oHalo 2? from Microsoft Games Studios (including sales of the Limited Edition); No. 6, ?oNeed for Speed: Underground 2? from Electronic Arts Inc.; and No. 10, ?oStar Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2? from LucasArts.

? Xbox software sales led the way in 2004 as unit sales increased 46 percent year-over-year, and increased 55 percent (annual 2004 vs. annual 2003).

There are now more than 200 Xbox Live-enabled titles, making it the richest library of online console games available today. ?oHalo 2,? which has sold more than 6.4 million copies worldwide since November, helped propel the service to new heights. The overall ?oHalo? franchise, which includes predecessor ?oHalo: Combat Evolved? for the PC and Xbox, has sold a collective 12.8 million copies in just three years. The ?oHalo 2? sell-through in the United States is just shy of 4.4 million units in less than two months.**

?oThe Xbox Live community has an insatiable appetite for riveting, connected and social game experiences,? said Cameron Ferroni, general manager of Xbox Live. ?oOur ongoing vision is to create online experiences that top anything else our community has seen to date. ?~Halo 2′ is another great example of how Xbox Live continues to set the standard for online gameplay.?

Smashing previously established records, the Xbox Live community has logged a record-breaking 91 million hours playing ?oHalo 2? since the title’s launch ?” more than any other Xbox Live game in the two-year history of the service. In addition, the instantly immersive gameplay has resulted in close to 61 million logged sessions on the game, with an average session lasting nearly 92 minutes, approximately the length of a major motion picture.

Blockbuster Xbox Live-enabled titles in 2005 promise to boost additional Xbox Live membership growth. Games such as Microsoft Game Studios’ ?oForza Motorsport”,? LucasArts’ ?oStar Wars Republic Commando,? Vicarious Visions’ ?oDoom 3? and Rare’s ?oConker”: Live and Reloaded? promise to drive additional online gaming growth in the coming months. In addition, Xbox Live members now can enjoy Xbox Live Arcade, a new social experience that brings popular retro classics and broad-appeal games directly to the Xbox console over the Xbox Live service. Members now have a personal arcade connected to Xbox Live, offering quick and easy access to classic arcade games such as ?oMs. Pac-Man? and ?oDig Dug? as well as exciting new games such as ?oBejeweled? and ?oAlien Sky.? From late-night gamers to those looking for a quick five-minute game fix between ?oHalo 2? matches, Xbox Live Arcade has something for everyone in the household.

Microsoft introduced the first broadly adopted online gaming service in November 2002 and continues to expand the appeal and adoption of broadband. The service continues to evolve with improved features such as downloadable content, voice messages and alerts coupled with highly anticipated games and unique programming such as ?oGame with Fame,? ?oPlay and Win? and ?oMystery Gamer.?