November 14, 2005 4:12 PM PST
Xbox 360 to launch with 18 titles
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Calling the lineup the "strongest launch in the history of video game consoles," Microsoft said there would be 18 games ready for the planned Nov. 22 release of the Xbox.
Among them are many of the latest iterations in proven franchises, including Electronic Arts' Madden NFL '06, "NBA LIVE '06" and "Need for Speed Most Wanted," as well as Activision's "Call of Duty 2" and "Tony Hawk's American Wasteland."
"It's pretty much what was expected based on everything they've been saying about what games would be available on day one," said IDC analyst Schelley Olhava. "I think it's strong. I wouldn't say it's (unequivocally) the strongest."
Olhava also said the lineup, which includes 11 football, basketball, hockey, soccer, racing, snowboarding and skateboarding titles, may be "a little heavy" on sports.
"(But) there's a good mix between some shooters and sports and action and adventure games," she added. "There's nothing that jumps out at me as a red flag like they're missing this big piece."
David Cole, an analyst with DFC Intelligence, agreed that the lineup is sports-heavy, but said he thinks that can be an advantage for Microsoft as it tries to differentiate its new console from the 4-year-old Xbox.
"Sports games are always a good tab at launch because they look really good and are good for showing off the differences between the new systems and the old systems," Cole said.
The launch lineup also includes several new titles, including Activision's "Gun" and EA's "FIFA Soccer '06: Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup."
But despite some rumors in the industry, Microsoft does not appear poised to release "Halo 3," a move that would have been nearly impossible to pull off just a little more than a year after the hit "Halo 2" appeared.
According to David Reid, Xbox director of platform marketing, the original Xbox launched in the fall of 2001 with only 11 titles. The chief difference between that launch and this year's, he explained, is the amount of support from third-party publishers like EA and Activision.
"We're very proud of the fact that on launch day, 15 (of the 18) titles are coming from partners," Reid said. "We did not have that very deep publisher support at the same unqualified level (in 2001) that we have today."
Cole agreed that Microsoft has done well with third-party support and with the nine games from EA and Activision alone.
"I think the fact that they're on from the launch (signifies) a lot of confidence in Microsoft and the Xbox 360," Cole said.
Microsoft's own Microsoft Game Studios has three titles for the launch: "Kameo: Elements of Power," "Perfect Dark Zero" and "Project Gotham Racing 3."
Meanwhile, even as the company seems certain to sell out the millions of Xboxes it will have available on the Nov. 22, there have been some concerns that retailers won't be getting enough of the consoles to satisfy eager customers.
Reid said that's not uncommon for high-profile game machine launches and that the problem should soon resolve itself.
"It's a very rare console that has enough volume on launch day that retailers feel they have enough," he said. But "you're going to see a steady replenishment of Xbox units right away."
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