Microsoft snags key Xbox game developer

Microsoft scored a major coup this week when it signed video game maker Electronic Arts (EA) to product software for Microsoft's upcoming Xbox gaming console, a feat that rival Sega was unable to perform for its Dreamcast system. EA, which currently makes best-selling games such as "Madden NFL Football" and "FIFA" for the Sony PlayStation, has been part of the computer and video game market since the early-1980's, when it produced such hits as "Larry Bird vs. Dr. J, One on One" and "Seven Cities of Gold" for the Commodore 64, Atari, and other early systems. EA is the largest independent games maker in the world, and the company had already agreed to port its titles to the PlayStation 2 (PS2); EA was the only major games maker not present at Microsoft's Xbox introduction in September.

"We're excited about Xbox and Microsoft's commitment to the platform," said Larry Probst, the chairman and CEO of EA. "Microsoft has the vision, the technology and the resources required to make a significant impact on our industry." Microsoft senior vice president Robbie Bach, who oversees Microsoft's gaming division, says that "EA is recognized as the world leader in game software. With them onboard, it further ensures gamers around the world that the best and brightest developers will be delivering previously unforeseen possibilities in gameplay on Xbox."

EA plans to unveil up to 10 games at the launch of the Xbox in the second half of 2001, and the company has already ordered 500 Xbox developer kits from Microsoft in a show of confidence in the system. However, the company has more than 40 games in development for the rival PS2 system. But EA has been quietly involved with the Xbox since it's inception: The company was a founding member of the Xbox Advisory Board and has played a role in the design of the system. With such hands-on experience in the design of the Xbox, EA says that its games will be particularly compelling on the new system. "Titles like 'Madden NFL 2001, 'SSX' snowboarding and 'Knockout Kings' boxing are going to look great on Xbox," says Don Mattrick, the president of EA Worldwide Studio Operations.

In addition to EA, Microsoft has signed over 200 of the top games development companies to produce titles for the Xbox, 18 of whom will create exclusive Xbox titles that will be sold under the Microsoft label. For more information on Microsoft's next generation video game console, please visit the Xbox Web site

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