This week, Microsoft said that it would meet its forecasts for Xbox 360 console shipments and ship 10 million units by the end of 2006. That prediction, along with the recent debuts of eagerly awaited game titles such as "Gears of War" and "Call of Duty 3," puts the Xbox 360 in a tremendous position as Sony limps into the market with fewer PlayStation 3 units than previously expected.
In addition, Microsoft now expects to have shipped 13 to 15 million Xbox 360 consoles by mid-2007. It's unclear how many PlayStation 3 units Sony will be able to sell by that point: The high price of the console--about $600--coupled with ever-decreasing shipping estimates suggests that Sony will have a rocky year ahead.
This week, Peter Moore, Microsoft's vice president of its Entertainment and Devices Division--which is responsible for the Xbox 360--said the key to the Xbox 360's success is roping in "moderate" or casual gamers. Although the Xbox 360 does offer stunning next-generation graphics and processing power, the console's biggest strengths might ultimately prove to be its simple online features, growing array of inexpensive and easy-to-obtain casual and classic arcade games, and wide range of multimedia features, including a recently announced TV show and movie download service.
According to Microsoft, more than 4 million people are connected to its Xbox Live service, which is available in both free and subscription-based versions. Users of the free version can use the service to download game demos and trailers, buy new game features such as additional maps and weapons, chat with other Xbox Live subscribers, and access a growing selection of free and paid content. Users who subscribe to Xbox Live can play online against other subscribers.