Microsoft sets bow of vidgame system

X-Box to go head-to-head with PlayStation 2

Microsoft will finally weigh in with its own videogame system in the fall of 2001.

The computer software giant is going after Sony and Nintendo and the $7 billion videogame software market with a new Windows-based videogame system that has been in the works since late 1998.

Specs for the DVD-based set-top game console system are being formally announced today by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates at a games developer conference in San Jose.

Robbie Bach, VP of Microsoft’s Games division, said that one of the biggest advantages of the device — called the X-Box — is that game development time and development itself will be much quicker, easier — and therefore less expensive — than games for Sony’s new PlayStation2. (The machine uses the underlying Windows PC operating system that developers are familiar with, as opposed to specifically designed architecture of the PlayStation).

No pricing or development costs are being discussed, except to say the game player will be priced competitively with new Sony and Nintendo systems that are expected to reach the U.S. this fall, a year ahead of Microsoft’s system.

Bach said the 600 megahertz processor is twice as fast as the PlayStation2, and that combined with 64 megabytes of RAM (random access memory), the X-Box will provide three times the performance level of the Sony machine.

Nearly 1 million units of the PlayStation2 were sold during its first two days of release last weekend in Japan, according to Sony. PlayStation2 makes its domestic debut this fall.

Like the PlayStation2, the X-Box will offer a connection to the Internet and hook-ups to cable, phone and satellite broadband services that will allow players to compete against players in other locations. Also like PlayStation2, the X-Box will play DVD movies. The company has not identified the manufacturer that will produce the DVD component yet.

Bach said that as long as the market continues to expand at its current rate as expected, “there will be room for Sony, Nintendo and ourselves.”

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