No broadband means no online Xbox gaming

Microsoft is taking a broadband-only route with its plans to create Internet-based gaming content for its Xbox console - could Xbox Live be a killer application for broadband?

Xbox owners who don't have access to broadband will be unable to sign up for Microsoft's forthcoming online gaming service, the company said this week.

Internet-based gaming is one of the hottest topics in the video game industry at the moment, with multiplayer contests, paid-for downloads and premium content seen as sure-fire ways of raising revenue and attracting users.

Microsoft's online gaming service, called Xbox Live, is due to launch this autumn, costing around £35 for a one year subscription. However, users without access to a broadband connection will not be able to take advantage of it, according to Kate Wilson, Microsoft's European online business development manager for the Xbox.

Wilson told the Broad Horizons Broadband Symposium in Wiltshire this week that the Xbox Live project was a fusion of the Xbox console and broadband.

"There's not a games company that isn't looking at online gaming, and most are looking at broadband. We at Microsoft aren't looking at narrowband gaming at all," Wilson said.

About 70 percent of UK homes have access to broadband, through either ADSL or a cable network, but only around 600,000 consumers have signed up so far -- according to the latest official figures.

Microsoft, though, is convinced that broadband will be ubiquitous within a few years.

"Broadband is not a mass-market technology now, and it probably won't be within two years. We're working on a prediction of what broadband will be in three to five years," said Wilson.

In the short term, Microsoft's position isn't good news for Xbox owners who can't get broadband because their local telephone exchange isn't ADSL-enabled and their local area isn't part of a cable franchise.

Microsoft could provide a boost to broadband rollout, though. Recent BT Wholesale price cuts have spurred demand for broadband, but there is still very little compelling broadband content that could entice more people to upgrade.

Xbox Live could prove to be one of the broadband killer applications, and make it economically viable for telecoms firms to make broadband available to more UK consumers.

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