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Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Microsoft pushes for a million live users, Sony considers online video chat

Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach has announced that Microsoft hopes to have one million Xbox Live users by June this year - but new plans from Sony may give the PS2 an innovative edge in the online gaming arena.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show, Bach stated that Xbox Live is the "largest paid content service in the world", and outlined the company's target of growing from 500,000 subscriptions last June to one million subscriptions this June.

"The essence of what's happening here is that we are finding a new way for people to have social experiences," he told the audience in Las Vegas. "We're blazing new trails. The business model is new. The concept model is new. The genres of content are new. This is all green field."

However, despite the success of Xbox Live, it continues to be outstripped by the uptake of Sony's online offering, with PS2 network adapter sales continuing to grow in all major territories despite what many critics label as a disappointing line up of software so far.

Sony may also be about to steal a technological march on Microsoft's offering - with the platform holder keen to see developers using the Eye Toy webcam peripheral for online video communications.

One of the factors often identified as a strong point of the Xbox Live service is that it has made voice chat into a standard feature of all of its games - and with the installed base of the popular Eye Toy peripheral continuing to grow, the potential exists for in-game video chat to be seen as the next logical extension of this trend.

Although video communications were proposed by several commentators when Eye Toy was first demonstrated, it was generally believed that the possibility of the service being abused would dissuade Sony from allowing the use of the peripheral in this way. However, a number of developers have informed us that Sony is encouraging the use of Eye Toy to enable video chat in games, and it's expected that the first titles to use this functionality will emerge later this year.

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