Microsoft Corp will begin selling its Kinect motion-sensing games system on November 4 ahead of the crucial holiday season, hoping to lure new and casual players to the Xbox and steal a march on rivals Nintendo Co Ltd and Sony Corp.
The world's largest software vendor, which has ambitions of making its Xbox 360 not just a gaming device but a hub of home video and Web entertainment, will this week also begin selling a smaller, same-priced version of the console.
But Microsoft would not say how much Kinect will sell for, though analysts' estimates range from $50 to $200. Executives said 15 titles will be available at the time of launch.
We are launching a whole new era for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, Don Mattrick, head of the company's video game business, said on the sidelines of the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo show in Los Angeles.
Executives showed off a more compact, higher-capacity Xbox console that will start shipping to retailers Monday and be available to consumers this week. With a 250-gigabyte hard drive, the console will carry the same price tag of $299.
Microsoft's Kinect -- a three-camera system that plugs into Xbox and allows for completely hands-free games and controlling the console with voice commands -- and Nintendo's 3D-without-glasses platform should generate the most buzz at this year's E3 games convention.
The platform -- if it works well -- will take gamers a step beyond Nintendo's Wii, which pioneered motion-sensing gaming with the help of an all-purpose controller.
Kinect is designed to appeal to casual players and newcomers, rather than hardcore gamers. The company hopes to draw in tens of millions more gamers into the already 40-million-strong Xbox population.
INTO YOUR LIVING ROOM
Microsoft also said on Monday it has struck a deal with Walt Disney Co's ESPN network to broadcast live sporting events into U.S. living rooms through the Xbox 360 games console, bypassing traditional cable providers.
Live games will be broadcast through Microsoft's Xbox Live service, and will be offered at no additional cost.
Microsoft's ambition -- despite its spotty track record of engaging consumers outside of gaming -- is to make the Xbox, which competes with Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation, the nexus of household entertainment.
It already offers Netflix movies and Zune music and videos through its Xbox Live online subscription service. There has been talk that it will announce a deal to add Hulu TV shows to the service at E3.
Shares of Microsoft fell 0.64 percent to close at $25.50 on Nasdaq. Disney fell 0.9 percent to $33.93 and Sony slipped 0.7 percent to $28.40 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Franklin Paul and Gabriel Madway; Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang)