Consoles plug in

— 3:04 AM on August 13, 2002

Microsoft has officially announced a date for its Xbox Live online service, and as you might expect, it's wrapped in a subscription fee. C|Net reports:

As previously reported, Microsoft will sell a $50 Xbox Live starter kit that includes a headset microphone, a one-year subscription to the service, and software that allows the Xbox to tap into an existing broadband Internet connection.

Microsoft is betting heavily on online play as one of the features that will distinguish the Xbox from Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube. The software giant has said it will spend $2 billion over the next few years to build out the Xbox Live network and develop the next generation of its game console.

Though only six titles will be available for online play at launch, the launch does come in time for the holiday buying season.

Sony and Microsoft are both pursuing online multiplayer gaming, but I have to wonder how successful either will be. Just because PC games have enjoyed a lot of online success doesn't mean that the same will hold true for console counterparts.

For me, console gaming has always been a very social experience, but the smack talk has been exchanged with living room combatants, not pseudo-anonymous opponents over the Internet. Nothing beats having your opponent right there, which may be why LAN parties are still popular despite the fact that most of their participants could be playing alone on their home broadband connections.

Can online console gaming capture all the best elements of intra-couch competition and translate that into a satisfying Internet gaming experience? Does it need to?

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