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Xbox to go online in Asia

Microsoft says it will unveil its Xbox online gaming service in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore this April, a year and a half after the service's debut in the United States.

Microsoft will unveil its Xbox online gaming service in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore this April, a year and a half after its U.S. debut.

In a statement, Microsoft said it will launch Xbox Live in those locations in two months' time but declined to offer pricing.

Although Microsoft has firmed up the accompanying game titles, it remained coy on the cost of

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the new offer, saying it will reveal full details "closer to the launch date." A starter kit in the United States makes the service available at $70 for a year.

The launch in some of Asia's most Internet-wired regions plays to the strength of the Xbox hardware, which, unlike Sony's PlayStation 2 machine, comes ready for online play right out of the box.

"People can utilize their broadband connection at home,'' Alan Bowman, general manager of Microsoft's Xbox business in Asia, told news service Reuters in an interview. That's "really a huge advantage for Asia, given that the penetration of broadband in homes throughout Asia is leading the world."

Microsoft said it will introduce more than 30 games with online multiplayer capabilities. These include Tom Clancy's "Rainbow Six 3," "Dead or Alive Online" and "Gotham Racing 2."

In Australia, Microsoft priced its XBox Live starter kit at around $59 (A$100) with 12 months of complimentary access to the service.

Last July, Microsoft also slashed the price of the XBox in Singapore by about 10 percent. Since then, the company has been aggressively marketing its game console in the republic with attractive game bundles, a possible move to seed the market for the impending launch of XBox Live.

Microsoft said it had sold around 1.3 million to 1.4 million consoles in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, out of 13.7 million sold worldwide.

Sony recently said it shipped its 70 millionth PlayStation 2. However, only 2.4 million PS2s have been sold with add-on equipment for online play, Microsoft said.

Winston Chai of CNETAsia reported from Singapore. Reuters contributed to this report.