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Fresh features for Xbox

Microsoft reveals games and upgrades

Microsoft unveiled a host of games and features for its Xbox gaming console and online gaming service this week, as well as its latest offerings that aim to make Xbox the focus of home entertainment centres.

The games and upgrades were announced in Los Angeles yesterday in anticipation of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) which begins tomorrow.

Microsoft said that by Christmas more than 50 games will be available for its Xbox Live online gaming service and over 100 will be on sale by this time next year. The first round of title releases will include Halo 2, Conker: Live and Uncut, and Grabbed by the Ghoulies by Rare, which Microsoft acquired in September 02.

The company launched Xbox Live, which allows users to play with other gamers via a broadband connection, in the US last November and in the UK in March. The service now has a community of over 500,000 gamers.

While the new games are aimed at expanding this fraternity, Microsoft's key emphasis was on the expansion of gaming to include other digital entertainment and services. In this vein, Microsoft said that it plans to launch an Xbox Music Mixer, which will allow users to share photos and music and access DVD and CD playback. Music Mixer will debut in the US for $39.99. No specific date or price was given for a European launch.

Microsoft is also planning upgrades to Xbox Live that will be made over the next year, including alerts that can be sent to users' mobile phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) or via MSN Messenger, and voice chat for organising games, as well as new teams and competitions.

The spokeswoman said that more Xbox announcements are expected during E3, which runs until Friday. More information on the show can be found here.

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