Updated from 2:34 PM
Tell your teenager to start saving his pizza money now -- he'll need 300 bucks in November if he wants to stay cool.
announced Wednesday that its highly anticipated Xbox gaming console will be available Nov. 8 for the oh-so-low-and-identical-to-Sony's-PlayStation2 price of $299.
Robbie Bach, "chief Xbox officer" at Microsoft, couldn't resist taking numerous swipes at
during a press conference introducing several game titles for the Xbox at the
Electronic Entertainment Expo
in Los Angeles. He started by saying that Microsoft will have 600,000 to 800,000 units ready for consumers by Xbox's launch date. He claimed that number was "50% to 100% more than what Sony and PS2 had at the time. We're very proud of that. It's great for the industry."
Sony, which was hit by well-publicized production shortages when it launched PS2 last fall, claimed to have 500,000 units available at launch. The company now says it has sold more than 3 million of the machines.
announced Wednesday that its eagerly awaited Gamecube console will be available November 5, upstaging Xbox by three days. While Nintendo's core customer base is among younger users -- think Pokemon -- the battled-tested game maker shouldn't be ignored, either.
Microsoft projected that it would sell 1 million to 1.5 million of its game boxes through the holiday season, and that 15 to 20 game titles would be available for the system when it launches. While a ton of attention has been focused on the Xbox console itself, in the gaming industry, it's the number of game titles available that ultimately make or break a console system. Bach said the company has 80 exclusive games in development for Xbox.
Sony had 26 titles available when it launched Oct. 26, and claimed to have 50 titles available by Christmas.
The launch is extremely important for Microsoft, which has allocated $500 million in marketing muscle to push the Xbox into the $7 billion video gaming market as it seeks to expand its presence beyond the consumer's PC and into living rooms.
Stressing its software roots, the company also said that about a third of the titles for the Xbox will be written by Microsoft itself. Others will come from established game makers such as
"Unlike Sony, Microsoft is very committed to doing first-party original titles ourselves," Bach said. "Thirty to 35% of Xbox games will be first-party names." It should be noted that Sony does, in fact, produce games for its console as well.
Bach also tried to counter the splash Sony made Tuesday when it announced that it is partnering with
AOL Time Warner
to make popular AOL features such as chat, email and instant messaging available on the PS2, and enable online gaming through the box. And on Wednesday, Sony was again in the news, this time for a new partnership with
that will allow PS2 users to download audio and video through their game system.
While that news gained Sony attention and established that the leading console maker won't take Microsoft's entry into the industry lying down, observers noted that users will need to buy special equipment such as a hard drive, keyboard and monitor to take advantage of those features.
"Online has to be easy. It has to be fast, secure and easy to connect. With Xbox, you just plug in and go," said Bach. "You don't have to buy anything external -- no keyboard, no mouse, no monitor, not Ethernet connection. It's all there in the box, and its super easy to get online."
Bach also said that instead of carrying on with other games via chat or instant messaging, gamers could use a headset made for the Xbox to talk, in real time, with other players. He did not say whether that headset would be sold separately.
"You won't get the following scenario, where you're about to sneak up on someone in Halo
Microsoft's futuristic soldiering game and all of a sudden have a message pop up that says 'You've got mail!' " Bach said. "We're not about text, we're not about email, we're about gaming, and you're going to use your voice to communicate."
Hmmm. Well, maybe you'll at least be able to free up the telephone from your teenagers' incessant chatting. Just forget about watching your television for long time to come.