Software companies eagerly await PC/gaming system

Microsoft officially jumped into the videogame-console battle Friday with the announcement of X-Box, a system that is intended to compete with Sony’s Playstation 2 and Sega’s Dreamcast.

At the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said X-Box will combine the qualities of a personal computer and a traditional videogame console.

“Building on our strengths as a software company, X-Box will offer game developers a powerful platform and game enthusiasts an incredible experience,” Gates said. “We want X-Box to be the platform of choice for the best and most creative game developers in the world.”

Gates did not say what the retail price of the console would be; the Dreamcast sells for $199 and PlayStation 2 is expected to go for around $370 when it hits the U.S. It is expected to be available in stores some time in 2001.

The X-Box will be powered by a 600-megahertz Intel processor and a graphics chip created by nVidia Corp. that can deliver 3-D images. The unit also will have an eight-gigabyte hard drive and a DVD player. Each X-Box will have an Ethernet port that can be used to hook up to broadband Internet lines and give users the option of participating in multiplayer online games.

Software companies already are hailing the arrival of the X-Box. Electronic Arts, Konami Co., Acclaim Entertainment and Eidos Interactive have all said they are willing to develop titles for the machine.

“X-Box is going to help make interactive game playing very broad based, attracting more consumers with new and diverse entertainment interests to our industry,” said Hasbro Interactive president Tom Dusenberry. “We’re particularly excited about the planned Internet capability of X-Box and will leverage game players’ expanded living-room access to the Internet with multiplayer versions of our games. In the living room and via the Internet, interactive games will increasingly be a social experience.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more