Microsoft Corp. on Monday said it will offer a lineup of arcade, puzzle and card games on its Xbox Live online service, targeted at infrequent video game players.
The move was aimed squarely at broadening its audience for the Xbox by bringing in older adults and women, many of whom would not usually spend much time in front of a gaming console and are looking for a simpler diversion than the types of games typically available today.
Microsoft said starting this fall, Xbox Live Arcade would offer a range of puzzle and board games and older arcade titles, with pricing roughly set at $10 each. Players will need to have an existing subscription to the Xbox Live service to access the games. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
Greg Canessa, who oversees the new program for the Xbox, said the company will develop some of the games itself but has also done deals with third parties like Atari Inc., Namco Ltd., PopCap Games and WildTangent.
To initially access the service, users will need a DVD, which will be widely available either on its own or included in the Xbox Live starter kit Microsoft sells.
"We're still working out the details of the distribution strategy," he said. "We intend to put that DVD into a lot of people's hands."
The announcement came hours ahead of the company's annual press conference at E3, the video game industry trade show that draws more than 60,000 people to Los Angeles for a week of news and previews on the latest in games and gaming hardware.
Among the titles that potentially would be offered on the service, Canessa said, were games like PopCap's popular "Bejeweled" and Atari arcade classics like "DigDug" and "Pole Position."
He also said the new service would offer poker and billiards games, and said the company's long-term strategy was to embrace competition in those games, like poker tournaments, which have become something of a spectator sport over the last couple of years.
"We would love to go there, absolutely," he said.
Xbox Live, launched in late 2002, is expected to have about 1 million subscribers by this summer. Its appeal has primarily been to sports gamers and fans of military-themed shooters, who are more likely to engage in multiplayer activity.