Report: Microsoft to launch online gaming service

In a bid to boost sales of its Xbox game console, Microsoft Corp. will announce on Monday plans to invest more than US$1 billion [B] to create an online video-game service, according to a report by The New York Times.

The expected announcement comes as Xbox sales have slowed in recent months, raising questions as to whether Microsoft will be able to achieve its target of selling up to 6 million [M] consoles by the end of June. Microsoft's online gaming service, to be called Xbox Live, will launch during the middle part of this year, the report said. Pricing for the service is likely to be around US$50 per game in addition to a $9.95 monthly subscription fee, it said. A high-speed Internet connection would also be required.

In addition to offering online games, Xbox Live will incorporate a voice-chat feature that will allow players to talk with or taunt one another while playing games, the report said. The voice feature will include masking technology designed to conceal the identity and age of players in order to protect children online, it said.

To run the Xbox Live service, Microsoft is setting up data centers in Tokyo, Seattle and London, the report said.

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