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Xbox Live expands in Asia

Internet connectivity strongholds get Microsoft's online console service.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Microsoft has announced plans to launch the Xbox Live gaming service in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore this April, continuing the Asian roll-out of the service following last October's launch in South Korea.

These regions are among some of the most broadband-enabled in the world, and online gaming on the PC is already a hugely popular pastime, a fact which Microsoft hopes will play to its advantage and give it an edge over Sony's PS2 in the territories.

However, the launch of Xbox Live in South Korea - another market which has embraced PC online gaming to a massive degree - has not been the massive sales catalyst that Microsoft might have hoped for, with only around 6,500 people subscribed to the service so far.

Gamers in the Far East may be attracted by Microsoft's promise of online gaming, but Sony's PlayStation 2 remains the most popular console platform, mostly because it has software support from Japanese developers, who make games which are more relevant to the Asian market for the most part.

Alan Bowman, general manager of Xbox in Asia, acknowledges this problem, stating that "one thing I hear loud and clear is that you need to build a portfolio of games that is appropriate for the Asian market" - a sentiment which echoes that of Xbox Japan chief Yoshihiro Maruyama, who recently pinned the failure of the console in that region on a lack of software which appeals to Japanese gamers, such as role-playing games.

According to Bowman, Microsoft's solution to this problem is to work with game development studios in Korea and Taiwan who are creating content that is more relevant to their local markets. Microsoft currently has 30 projects in development in those two territories, with the first games set to arrive later this year.

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