JUAN-LES-PINS, France, 16th September 2003 – A secluded private beach in the South of France was the venue for X03 this year, with almost 1000 European games press and retail representatives gathering to play more than 100 games heading to Xbox® and enjoy entertainment from British trip-hop legends Massive Attack. The two-day event, taking place on September 16th and 17th, offered Xbox the opportunity to unveil its new brand positioning for the first time in Europe. Xbox also shared more information about plans for the continued roll-out of Xbox® LiveTM across Europe.

With previous events (X01 and X02) held at Pierre Cardin's 'Bubble House' in Cannes and La Isla Magica in Seville respectively, the X0 events are rapidly carving a special place in the games industry calendar, not least for the calibre of creative developer 'names' who participate each year. Almost 1000 games industry luminaries from all over the world arrived in Nice for X03 and were whisked off to a beach club in Antibes, lit up with green and completely branded for the occasion. Sipping cocktails as the sun set, guests enjoyed barbeque treats and got a chance to speculate what the big announcements would be – a question that was answered at sundown when the bay became bathed in Xbox-green light and the press conference began.

Eduardo Rosini, regional vice president, home and retail division, Microsoft, kicked off the event with a recap of the previous year and a look into the future, as he explained that Xbox is gaining a leadership position in serving gamers' digital entertainment lifestyles. Peter Moore, corporate vice president of worldwide retail sales and marketing, Home and Entertainment Division, Microsoft, spoke of the new Xbox brand positioning and unveiled the new Xbox tag line – "it's good to play together." Michel Cassius, senior director, Xbox platform and marketing, announced dates for the launch of Xbox Live in six more European countries, plus ongoing Xbox Live pricing and a new Xbox Live trial offer programme.

Then it was on to the games, with industry giants such as Tomonobu Itagaki (Tecmo), Peter Molyneux (Lionhead), and Yves Guillemot (UbiSoft) showing how their games perfectly illustrate the Xbox brand vision. Finally, Jay Wilbur of Epic Games took the stage to announce an ongoing deal that will bring new Epic games exclusively to Xbox.

After the press conference, guests partied into the night to the sounds of Massive Attack and were able to get their hands on some of the games announced during the press conference. X03 concludes tomorrow with more gameplay time and one-on-one press meetings with Xbox spokespeople and developers.

"We have had a great year in Europe, and it's great to share this success with our colleagues at X03," said Rosini,. "We have firmly established our place in the console market and we have brought a huge number of great games to Xbox.

"The future is going to bring even more exciting developments for Xbox," said Rosini. "Content and services are quickly converging to connect gamers with more of their friends, in more ways, more of the time. Microsoft is taking a leadership role in serving gamers' connected lifestyles - it's what Microsoft does best, and Xbox Live is just the beginning."

Xbox Live
Xbox announced that Xbox Live would be rolling out in six new countries, plus revealed great new games and initiatives to bring even more gamers into the growing Live community. Continuing the European roll-out, Xbox Live will launch at retail in a further six European countries on 30th October: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland. New pricing options for European gamers will begin on March 14th 2004 when existing Live gamers will be given the opportunity to choose a monthly pricing plan at £4.99/€6.99 per month after their initial one-year subscription expires. Alternatively they can renew their annual subscription for £39.99/€59.99 so they don't miss out on a moment of Xbox Live gaming. And for those gamers who have yet to try online gaming, for a limited time special Xbox Live trial offer vouchers will be included within selected Live-enabled games from October, offering two free months of Xbox Live gaming with no obligation.

The Inaugural Xbox Live Clash of the Continents, to be held tomorrow morning at X03, will let the trash talkers put their money where their mouths are. Ten ace Xbox Live veterans, one from each European Xbox Live country plus the US and Canada, will compete for ultimate bragging rights, playing Rainbow Six 3 from Ubi Soft to decide the ultimate Xbox Live champion. The winner will receive, in addition to their trip to X03, a year's supply of games from Microsoft Game Studios, a copy of Rainbow Six 3, and a trophy.

The Games
It's all about the games, and more than 100 were playable at X03. Guests were excited to hear that RalliSport Challenge 2, the sequel to Microsoft Game Studios' highly regarded rally simulation game, will be coming to Xbox in 2004, as will Codemasters' Xbox Live-enabled Race Driver 2: The Ultimate Driving Simulator.

"Developer Unplugged" sessions will be held tomorrow, hosted by some of the top game designers in the industry and offering insights into the creation of eagerly-awaited games like Ninja Gaiden, Full Spectrum Warrior, Fable, and Starcraft®: GhostTM. The sessions include gameplay demos by the designers themselves, who will take questions from the audience of European journalists.
Previously announced titles shown at X03, many for the first time in Europe, included:

* BreakdownTM (Namco) - Breakdown, shown for the first time in Europe before its public unveiling at the Tokyo Game Show later this month, offers an unique first-person action/adventure gaming experience by combining unprecedented hand-to-hand combat and traditional weapons-based action, with an intense story line and incredible graphics in a thrilling and suspenseful search for the truth. Trapped inside a mysterious laboratory and unable to remember his past, Derrick Cole discovers his extraordinary powers as he fights for survival against a determined military faction and a legion of seemingly invincible super-human warriors!

* Dead or Alive Online (Tecmo) – Tecmo's "Team Ninja" and Xbox will be teaming up to bring the beloved classics, Dead or Alive 1 and Dead or Alive 2 to the Xbox video game system in Dead or Alive Online. The new anthology will bring 3D fighting to the masses with full Xbox Live capabilities. It is time to kick some major $#%^* with gamers from around the world!

* Deus Ex: Invisible War (Eidos) – It is fifteen years since the end of the global conspiracy depicted in Deus Ex - widely regarded as one of the greatest action games of all time. In the aftermath, a catastrophic depression has crippled the world and conflicting militant groups seek to enforce their own violently destructive agendas. As corporate anti-terrorist mercenary Alex D you must track these factions down and destroy them. Enhancing your skills with molecular bio-modifications and hi-tech weaponry you seek to restore the world order. But in the huge, free-roaming world of Deus Ex it seems that the challenge is to know your real enemies. And for this you must uncover the veil of secrecy surrounding your own existence. Deus Ex: Invisible War is console-exclusive to Xbox.

* Full Spectrum Warrior (THQ) – A squad-level, dismounted, Light Infantry training simulator created for use by the US Army, Full Spectrum Warrior focuses on critical tactical decision making by the Squad Leader. Coming exclusively to Xbox, Full Spectrum Warrior emphasises action and fun while the underlying structure of highly detailed accuracy and authenticity serve to highlight the action and tactical challenges likely to be faced by the Army in the year 2020.

* Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo) – One of gaming's most treasured franchises will be given new life as Tecmo's Team Ninja and the powers of Xbox join forces to present one of the most anticipated games of the new millennium. Ninja Gaiden boasts cutting-edge action with gorgeous pre-rendered environments and visuals as the player takes on the role of powerful ninja, Ryu Hayabusa. New features include a revolutionary Xbox Live element, swift new moves and intense action sequences, and amazing visual effects.

* Starcraft: Ghost (Blizzard Entertainment) - StarCraft: Ghost, Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming tactical-action console game, refines the epic experience of StarCraft to the level of the individual soldier. Engage the StarCraft universe face-to-face as a deadly Ghost operative in the employ of the Dominion. With the help of determined allies, follow story-driven missions that take you from massive planetary battles through dangerous solo operations to an unexpected turn of events that leaves the fate of the universe in your hands.

* Steel Battalion – Line of Contact (Capcom) – The next evolution in the battle-mech genre, exclusively for Xbox and playable via Xbox Live, Steel Battalion – Line of Contact is based on the award-winning Steel Battalion phenomenon and gives players the opportunity to once again use the most elaborate controller interface ever created to partake in futuristic military warfare. Ultra realistic visual effects and mech battles in the first or third person perspective create the ultimate mechanized military combat experience.

* Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3 (Ubi Soft) – Command an elite, multinational squad of special operatives against a hidden terrorist foe. In Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3, the third instalment in the wildly popular Rainbow Six series, Team RAINBOW races against time to stop terror and unravel a mystery. In locations around the world, from London to the Cayman Islands to Rio de Janeiro, lead Team Rainbow in a desperate effort to battle a madman and foil his doomsday plot. Only on Xbox, Rainbow Six 3 features streamlined multiplayer via Xbox Live.

* Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (Ubi Soft) – A follow-up to the phenomenally successful Xbox smash hit of last Christmas, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora's Tomorrow brings back more of the single-player intrigue that made the original game a best-seller, along with multiplayer online missions allowing several players to simultaneously share Sam Fisher's shadowy world of espionage. With exciting new action scenes and a strong cinematic feel, the player will experience new and even more realistic surroundings.

Other highly-anticipated Microsoft Game Studios games slated to arrive for Christmas and beyond, only on Xbox and shown at X03, included:

* Amped 2 (Microsoft Game Studios)

* BC (Big Blue Box/Microsoft Game Studios)

* Counter-Strike (Microsoft Game Studios)

* Crimson Skies (Microsoft Game Studios)

* Fable (Lionhead Studios/Microsoft Game Studios)

* Halo 2 (Bungie/Microsoft Game Studios)

* Project Gotham Racing 2 (Microsoft Game Studios)

* Sudeki (Microsoft Game Studios)

* Top Spin (Microsoft Game Studios)

* Xbox Music Mixer (Microsoft Game Studios)

X03- it's good to play together
In the tradition established by other X0 events, X03 is the embodiment of the central Xbox brand premise - that when it comes to the most exhilarating entertainment experiences, nothing brings people together like Xbox. This fact is reflected in a new global brand positioning unveiled at X03 and encapsulated in a new tagline – "it's good to play together".

The new Xbox global advertising campaign, developed by McCann-Erickson tag ideation group, reflects a long-term brand strategy developed in conjunction with Landor Associates, that will influence all Xbox marketing communications for the Xbox line-up of games and services. Point-of-sale materials, Xbox.com, promotions, events, packaging, and PR activities will all reflect the rich interactive, social and competitive entertainment experiences that Xbox delivers. The European Xbox marketing team will ensure, through smart localization of the language and imagery, that the style and substance of the social dynamic being communicated resonates with European audiences.

"Anyone who has ever walloped a mate in Dead or Alive 3, or saved the world cooperatively in Halo, or torn around Paris versus their overseas friends in Midtown Madness 3 knows that Xbox brings people together," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president, worldwide retail sales and marketing, Xbox. "We felt the Xbox brand should reflect reality,– that it's good to play together."

X03 continues tomorrow with a full day of gameplay and press interviews for Xbox and 3rd party spokespeople.