Microsoft to Sony: We Got Game

Adding to its arsenal of games developers, Microsoft Corp. Tuesday hammered
out a deal to buy Austin, Texas-based Digital Anvil Inc. for an undisclosed

The software giant will gain the rights to such titles as “FreeLancer,” the
highly anticipated space-combat simulation game, as well as a
yet-to-be-announced title currently in development for the Xbox™ video
game system.

The snagging of Digital Anvil doesn’t come out of nowhere for Microsoft,
which has bought FASA Interactive Technologies Inc., creators of the
best-selling “MechWarrior” franchise, Access Software Inc., of “Links” golf
simulation titles fame and Bungie Software Products Corp., creators of the
upcoming “Halo” — all in the past year.

Microsoft has developed PC games with the small firm since 1997. Digital
Anvil will continue to create titles from its Austin headquarters, but minus
founder and Chief Executive Officer Chris Roberts, who will depart to pursue
other activities once “FreeLancer” is finished.

“The acquisition of Digital Anvil will strengthen our commitment to
producing top-quality PC and Xbox titles,” said Ed Fries, vice president of
games publishing at Microsoft.

Where Microsoft isn’t looking to acquire games developers, it is
gathering the rights to some titles and partnering with their makers
exclusively. In October, the giant secured publishing and distribution
rights to the best-selling “Oddworld” game series, from leading interactive
entertainment publisher Infogrames Inc.

Scheduled for release in fall 2001, Microsoft expects Xbox will compete
mightily with Sony’s PlayStation 2, a feverishly-anticipated follow-up
released in October. Due to component shortages, Sony has been struggling to
supply them just as retailers have been hard-pressed to keep their shelves

And, although the Microsoft Games Division seems to be the total package
with three core businesses — PC games development and publishing, console
Xbox, and game site — Microsoft is recognizing the importance of
moving away from PC-based games to the more casual,
sit-on-the-couch-in-front-of-the-TV console it wants to instill with Xbox.

Gaming analysts have speculated that whichever product signs on the most
title developers — Xbox or PlayStation 2 — may be the deciding factor in
the increasing console competition.

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