Animated series makes its digital, hi-def debut

The “Looney Tunes” are making their digital and hi-def debut courtesy of Xbox Live.

Microsoft’s online distribution service for its vidgame console is adding 50 episodes starring Bugs, Daffy and the gang today (Tuesday) marking the first time they are available for digital download. All episodes are in high definition and 10 are also available in Spanish.

“Looney Tunes” shorts have previously been streamed on WB sibling company AOL, but have never been for sale on the Internet before.

Launch is part of a broader effort by Microsoft to target family auds with its Xbox 360, which has thus far appealed primarily to core gamers, most of whom are young men.

Along with “Looney Tunes,” Microsoft is adding Nickelodeon series “The Backyardigans,” “Blue’s Clues” and “iCarly.”

Xbox Live is the No. 2 digital video store after Apple’s iTunes and the only one to offer content in high definition.

Service also offers downloadable games and is adding two licensed titles aimed at kids: “Shrek-N-Roll” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: Underpants Slam.”

Microsoft is also today unveiling a lower-priced version of the Xbox 360 dubbed Xbox 360 Arcade.

Device, which has been widely anticipated by videogame blogs, ships with five popular casual games and doesn’t have a hard drive. That makes it better suited for casual gamers who don’t need much memory to store saved progress on their vidgames.

Priced at $280, 360 Arcade is intended to directly compete with the Nintendo Wii, which costs just $250, also doesn’t have a hard drive and has proven popular with casual gamers.

Though many avid gamers own both a 360 and a Wii, casual gamers have overwhelmingly chosen Nintendo’s device thus far, a gap Microsoft is looking to close with its new console and a growling library of games and downloadable video aimed at kids. Though it doesn’t have an intuitive motion sensing controller like the Wii, 360 has significantly better graphics and, unlike its competitors, also plays DVDs.

“We know families are making holiday purchases are not going to buy multiple consoles and we think we are offering a great value to them,” said Aaron Greenberg, Xbox’s group product manager.

Arcade replaces the Xbox 360 Core, the previous low-priced version of Microsoft’s console. It cost $299.99 and didn’t come with any bundled games. It sold poorly and was discontinued earlier this year.

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