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Gates and Ballmer: What's on their Xboxes

Gates prefers car racing; Ballmer likes basketball. Their kids just think Xbox 360 is really awesome. Sony? Maybe not so much.

LAS VEGAS--When Steve Ballmer fires up his Xbox 360, he reaches for the NBA 2K6 basketball game. Bill Gates, who played his console for about 100 hours over the holidays, prefers the Project Gotham car racing game.

"Fortunately I had some young kids around who were showing me around all this stuff," Gates said in an interview with CNET News.com. "I played a lot of Project Gotham, a lot of Hexic, a lot of Zuma."

What both Microsoft executives said they like is that their company is first this time. After playing catch-up to Sony in the last round of the console wars, Gates and Ballmer said they're happy to be well ahead of Sony's PlayStation 3, which is expected to arrive later this year.

"We know what it's like to go second," Gates said. "We've tried that."

Last time around, Microsoft was both second to Sony and had a somewhat more costly machine. All told, it cost Microsoft billions to get in the game.

This time around, Ballmer and Gates have the lead, for the moment, giving both men some time to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Ballmer said Xbox 360 has been welcome at home.

"Unlike Xbox 1, my wife thinks it's a good addition to the house," Ballmer said, adding that Microsoft hopes to reach more women, as well as a broader age range, with the new console, thanks in part to the "arcade" feature, which offers downloadable casual games that don't have the steep learning curve of traditional game titles.

Despite some early experience, neither Gates nor Ballmer claims to be a pro. The two came onstage at the Consumer Electronics Show here to show off "Fight Night: Round 3," from EA Sports, opting for a staged fight rather than a test of their own pugilistic skills.

That didn't stop a little verbal sparring as the two pantomimed their fight.

"Thirty years I've been training for this opportunity," quipped Ballmer.

"You've got the weight on me, I'll give you that," Gates retorted.

It is the Xbox 360's new basketball game that was a hit with at least one of Ballmer's three sons. "My son comes up to me the other night, 'Dad, the guys start perspiring in a few minutes...just the way they're supposed to; that is really awesome, dad.'"