EA, Eidos not Joining the Live Boat

EA, Eidos not Joining the Live Boat

Microsoft today, releases XBox Live to 8 European countries but will have to move ahead without the support of two of the biggest games publishers. Both EA and Eidos have announced that they are not interested in cooperating with Microsoft on its online venture. Microsoft will start selling a kit that includes a one-year subscription and three games, for 59.99 euros (USD65) in France and Germany, and UKP39.99 (USD64) in the U.K.

Microsoft whose XBox console has sold about 1 for every 6 PS2's, are relying heavily on the console's online capabilities. The loss of two major partners, who will however, continue making online games for PS2, could cause a problem for MS. According to Jason Armitage, an analyst at IDC Microsoft should be concerned that a game maker of the size of Electronics Arts doesn't support its initiative, it's critical to maintain relations with the publishers.

Since the European XBox Live launch gives Microsoft a monopoly in next generation online console gaming for that continent, a loss of these proportions could prove an important set-back. Sony will not launch their online PS2 services in Europe until later in 2003, although testing in the U.K. is scheduled to begin at the end of this month.

But what is it exactly that Microsoft stand to lose? EA and Eidos represent 20 - 25 per cent of the total gaming market, according to analysts and would be a powerful force in enticing new subscribers to XBox Live by the power of their better known titles.


Eidos, are best known for their Tomb Raider and Championship Manager series of games.
The Tomb Raider games alone have sold a total of 28 million units, making it the No. 1 PlayStation franchise in Europe and the U.S.
The main problem Eidos have with XBox Live is that MS control every aspect of the online system including subscription management. Sony on the other hand just sell the hardware needed to connect to the services offered by the game's developer.

We're not supporting Xbox Live for the time being because we don't feel comfortable with Microsoft's business model -- they own the consumer, said Eidos Chief Executive Mike McGarvey. Sony is more of a partner, he added, in order to explain why they will continue producing games for PS2.

Electronic Arts

EA are the biggest games publishers in the US and have associated themselves with titles such as the FIFA soccer and NHL hockey series. The importance of EA however, is not limited to the US. EA's The Sims was the No. 1 U.K., Europe's largest games market, game last week and the FIFA 2003 game is Europe's best selling soccer video game, having sold 2.5 million units.
EA have been expressing doubts about joining XBox Live for some time now and according to spokesman Jeff Brown, We have no plans for online games with Xbox because we couldn't agree on the terms.

In many ways the online offerings of the current consoles are not the main item but rather a practice ground for the second generation of online consoles which are not expected until 2005. It is very important though for all companies concerned to become established as the most reliable online gaming provider. If one is to emerge as the leader in the online race, it will have gained an invaluable advantage which the company will carry on to its new console and that will be the real money making service, expected to provide a variety of music and movie content as well as the gaming and other services.

This practice period does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that the console manufacturers are not taking their online bid seriously.
Microsoft's XBox Live currently offers Ubi Soft's Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and THQ's MX Superfly and MotoGP.
With Activision planning to release Live versions of Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War and Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix.

Sony on the other hand, have the well established EverQuest, available on PC and PS2, while they are currently working on a online PS2 take on George Lucas's Star Wars universe.