Ending more than a year of acrimony, Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft have agreed to terms that will let EA publish versions of its best-selling video games that run on Microsoft's popular Xbox Live online gaming service. When Microsoft launched the service in late 2002, EA declined to participate for a variety of reasons. At the time, EA's primary complaint was that it saw no reason to give Microsoft access to its customers.
Today, the story is dramatically different. At an Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) 2004 preconference press event yesterday, EA and Microsoft announced that the two companies have resolved their differences and will work together to promote EA's games on Xbox Live. EA said that it will ship 15 Xbox Live-compatible games by the end of the year. The games include some of the industry's best-selling titles, such as Madden NFL 2005, NBA Live 2005, NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup, and GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. The first EA-produced Xbox Live game will ship in August.
The delay in getting EA's games on Xbox Live has cost Microsoft. Largely because EA's best-selling online game titles were available only on the PlayStation 2, Sony was able to sell millions of its PlayStation 2 network adapters, which let PlayStation 2 owners play games online. Microsoft claims that it still offers the best online gaming experience, however, and said this week that almost 1 million customers have subscribed to the Xbox Live service, up from 750,000 at the end of last year. No doubt the availability of EA's games will also help the service.