Playing videogames is not just for kids any more. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, 36.7% of game console owners in the United States are adults. Plus, more than half of them live with their family (spouse and at least one child). It seems then that game consoles should no longer be considered as children’s toys. As these devices evolve into highly sophisticated entertainment systems, “families have incorporated them into their centralized home media centers, which include television, digital recording device, digital music player and the PC” said Carolyn Creekmore of Nielsen/NetRatings.
Microsoft seems to be well aware of this convergence towards a centralized home entertainment system, or at least this is what you can infer from the announcement that the Redmond guys released yesterday: the Live online gaming network, which so far was exclusive to Xbox players, will soon be opened for PC players too. Microsoft plans to launch Live for PC in May 8th, exactly the same day when Halo 2, the Xbox blockbuster, will be released for Windows Vista. In this way, the Live Xbox community will expand to another platform and enable PC gamers to play, compete and interact with the over six million Xbox gamers who already belong to it.
There will be two levels of PC Live membership: ‘silver’ is free and offers basic multiplayer functionalities, some social network tools and a single gamertag, while ‘gold’ features cross-platform gaming and other advanced multiplayer possibilities for a $49.95 monthly fee.
A month after the launch date, Microsoft will release the first game in which PC players will actually be able to join Live community: Shadowrun, a first-person shooter set in the near future where PC and Xbox gamers will enrol in cross-platform online battles of up to 16 players. Later on during 2007, Microsoft will also launch the Vista version of Uno, one of the most popular arcade games in Xbox Live, as one more step towards uniting videogamers across different gaming systems and platforms.