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Gates Sees Cross Platform Gaming

Los Angeles – Increased compatibility between Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game system and their upcoming Windows Vista operating system was among the key messages delivered by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Speaking at Microsoft’s press conference, Gates stressed that the future of gaming is the software, adding that the company’s strategy is to create “games that can be played on any of the devices you’ll have.”

This includes greater integration between gaming platforms, including the PC, the Xbox 360 and mobile devices. With a single cross-platform “gamer tag” or ID, consumers will have instant access with friends through the Xbox Live game network, and be able to chat, send e-mail or share content, regardless of whether they’re connected through a mobile phone, a PC or the Xbox 360 game machine.

This is part of Microsoft’s attempt to give a full make over for their “Games For Windows” brand, which will include a new retail presence.

While PC gaming once accounted for a large portion of electronic entertainment market share, it has been in decline for several years, facing increased competition from consoles, which have added online connectivity with the current generation of gaming systems including the original Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 2, and other portable devices including mobile phones.

The Xbox Live service is the core of Microsoft’s gaming strategy, which will be providing downloadable content including classic arcade games, as well as newly forged partnerships with smaller development studios for original games and other content, available as micro-transactions.

The Xbox Live Market Place will have more than 1000 pieces of downloadable content by year’s end, including expansion packs for existing game, demos of full games, episodic content and other digital entertainment including music videos and movie trailers.

Microsoft also announced hardware upgrades for the Xbox 360, which according to Microsoft has sold more than 5 million units since being released last November.

The new add-ons include an HD-DVD drive for movie playback. Price, date of release and whether games will be produced for the HD-DVD format were not announced.

Also unveiled E3 are an Xbox Live Vision Camera, which will allow real-time video connectivity, along with a wireless headset. Additionally, a wireless racing steering wheel, supporting tactile force feedback, will be bundled with the upcoming Forza Motorsport 2 racing game. This is one of 160 titles that Microsoft announced that will be available by the 2006 holiday season.

Additional software titles included a mix of games, with an emphasis on action-based games including Saint’s Row, Battle for Middle Earth 2, Gears of War and Dead Rising. A strategic partnership with developer/publisher Rockstar Games was announced, and the hit franchise Grand Theft Auto IV, will arrive on the Xbox 360 on Oct. 16.