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Microsoft announced yesterday it would open up its Xbox Live gaming network to online PC Gamers under the name Games for Windows -- Live. The release date of the new service coincides with the much-anticipated release of a Vista version of Microsoft best-seller Halo 2 combat game. Peter Moore, Microsoft VP: "The benefit of expanding Live to Games for Windows titles is two fold: We’re bringing together two communities that share a passion for playing online games, and we’re enhancing the online experience for PC gamers who have long desired seamless game and voice connectivity." Despite the gaming industry's preoccupation with dedicated consoles, most video games are still played on run-of-the-mill PCs. Online gaming has failed to adequately address PC gamers' desire to experience the same level of online connectivity enjoyed by console gamers. Microsoft's Microsoft 14 03 2007 Chartnew offering seeks to up the online ante for more than "200 million PC gamers." Features include a 'gamer tag' identity that follows users regardless of what game they were playing, text/voice chat, and a unified friends list. Industry analysts say the move should increase game developer focus on the Windows platform. Basic membership (silver) is free; gold membership will cost $50/year (same as Xbox Live gold); Xbox Live users will automatically gain access to the Windows expansion.

Sources: Press Release, New York Times
Commentary: Sony Reveals Social Gaming Platform for PS3Game Consoles: Microsoft's Search for the Killer AppDon't Sell on Microsoft Vista's Poor Reception
Stocks/ETFs to watch: Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT). Competitors: Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE), Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY). Game developers: Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), TakeTwo Interactive Software Inc. (NASDAQ:TTWO), Activision Inc. (NASDAQ:ATVI), Midway Games Inc. (MWY), Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS)

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Source: Microsoft to Bring Xbox Live to PC Gamers