Game developer Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the popular

Final Fantasy

series, will develop two new titles for

Microsoft's

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next-generation game console, the company announced after the bell on Thursday.

The company gave scant details about the games, saying only that they would be in the same role-playing genre as

Final Fantasy

and would be exclusive to the new Xbox. Sakaguchi is president of the recently formed Mistwalker game studio, which will work on the games, according to a Microsoft representative. However, the titles will be published under the Microsoft Game Studios label.

The move seems to be an effort to boost interest in Microsoft's next-generation game machine. While the current Xbox has seen an increase in sales in recent months, its total user base is far smaller than that of

Sony's

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market-leading PlayStation 2.

Analysts have typically attributed the Xbox's market problems to the lack of must-have titles on the device. Other than the enormously popular

Halo

series, there have been few big Xbox hits and even fewer that are only available on the console.

Thanks in part to the device's relatively low adoption rate, the Microsoft division behind Xbox has consistently posted operating losses since the product's launch. It finally posted a profit this past quarter.

Microsoft did not say when the Sakaguchi-developed titles would be released. Indeed, the company has not yet said when it plans to release its next-generation console. However, many analysts expect the new Xbox to be on store shelves later this year.

Although the two games will be exclusive to the Xbox, Sakaguchi and Mistwalker will be free to develop titles for other consoles under the agreement, according to the Microsoft representative.

In recent after-hours trading, Microsoft's stock was up 5 cents, or 0.2%, to $25.42. The company's shares closed regular trading up 17 cents, or 0.7%, to $25.37.