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MS rests XSN Sports line-up for a year

NFL Fever, NBA inside Drive and NHL Rivals troop off to training camp. Presumably not in La Manga.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

XSN Sports studio manager Kevin Browne has confirmed that Microsoft is pulling its line-up of sports titles for the 2004-2005 season, reportedly in order to stand a better chance of making critical and commercial gains in 18 months' time.

"We actually did think we had good games last year," Browne told IGN this week, "but the market and the direct feedback that we have shows us that we fall short in a couple of areas to our competition, and we think it's the best thing we can do, to take this year off, and to close that quality gap that we have in respect to the EA Sports and [Sega] ESPN sports titles."

Browne was quick to clarify that this delay only affects sports titles on a seasonal timetable - NFL Fever, NBA Inside Drive and NHL Rivals - and that the next instalments in the Links, Amped and Top Spin franchises will not be affected. Technically Microsoft has yet to confirm Xbox sequels to these titles, but they seem rather inevitable by all accounts. Microsoft also states that all existing XSN Sports titles will continue to receive downloadable roster updates and the like, and that Rallisport Challenge 2 is still on track for release this year and will take advantage of XSN Sports as planned.

While the last run of XSN Sports-enabled offerings from MS boosted the service's profile, rival offerings from EA and Sega trounced them both on the scorecard and at retail. Doubly frustrating for Microsoft of course is the fact that EA continues to develop online sports titles for PS2 only, with no Xbox Live support anywhere in its current line-up. The publisher is widely tipped to change its stance in the near future, but the average consumer doesn't know that - he or she just sees stacks of critically acclaimed online sports games on PS2 and few if any up-to-date equivalents on the Microsoft console.

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