Gamers in Japan who buy Microsoft's upcoming games console, Xbox, will be playing over broadband connections thanks to NTT, the internet arm of Japan's dominant telephone operator.

The two companies plan to launch the broadband network service in 2002, after the expected Japanese launch of the Xbox in late 2001. NTT is also looking for space in the European telco market.

"The service will be provided through NTT's ASDL internet access service," said a spokesperson at Microsoft. "Today's gamers demand more depth to games and adding an online gaming option will do just that."

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will announce details of the venture at the Tokyo Game Show this Friday.

"We are at the early stages of development," said the company’s spokesperson. "This is a very exciting time for Microsoft."

Microsoft said it would be working closely with NTT to explore future network gaming systems.