Xbox Live gets a little Dis magic

Deal adds 35 HD titles available for downloading

Microsoft Corp. announced the addition of Walt Disney Co. films to the Xbox 360's download service, Xbox Live, on Tuesday night at the opening news conference for the E3 Media and Business Summit.

Disney joins the ranks of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate among studios contributing high-definition titles to the fast-growing platform. Among the 35 titles that will be made available beginning Tuesday include "Bridge to Terabithia," "The Queen" and "Deja Vu."

"This is a big endorsement for us," Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division at Microsoft, said in an interview preceding the news conference. "With this partner, we have 28 TV and movie studios on Xbox Live."

Xbox still has some catching up to do in the Disney department compared to Apple's iTunes, which has a broader array of Disney films on tap as well as bigger titles, including "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." That might have something to do with tight ties between Apple and Disney's Pixar.

Bach reported robust numbers for Xbox Live, which recently surpassed 7 million members. He projected reaching 10 million by this time next year.

Contrary to expectations that Microsoft would lower the price of Xbox in response to a similar move made this week by Sony Corp. for its PlayStation 3 console, Bach did not announce such a move but didn't rule it out as an option.

"July is the worst month to do something like that," he said. "It's the slowest time in every market in the world. We'll decide what we'll do in the future when we get there."

Bach sought to bolster Xbox's image in the wake of a disclosure this week that Microsoft would spend more than $1 billion to repair technical problems experienced by some owners of the console as well as extend warranties.

He noted that 11.6 million Xbox 360 consoles have been sold, 5.6 million in the U.S. In addition, Bach said that Xbox owners buy more games per console than owners of Nintendo or Sony devices. "When you look at the dollars spent on the consoles, we're dramatically ahead of our individual competitors," he said. "That's important for the marketplace because more publishers will want to develop more games."

Bach also touted Xbox's competitive advantage for the 2007 holiday season, noting that Microsoft will have the only console that can service the probable three biggest sellers out at that time: "Halo 3," "Madden NFL 08" and "Grand Theft Auto IV."

"We think we have the best lineup of games in history," Bach said.

While Xbox has established itself as a console of choice for hardcore gamers, Bach signaled that Microsoft will take several steps to make it more accessible to a broader audience, including a set of new casual games for Xbox Live Arcade and a deal with DVD game brand Scene It? that will bring a customized new controller to the console.
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