This evening in Los Angeles, two of the biggest names in games--Microsoft and Electronic Arts--announced a new partnership that will fundamentally alter online console gaming.
After an extended period of negotiation, EA has agreed to bring almost its entire catalog of major online titles to Xbox Live.
The news came against the backdrop of a star-studded gala in the Shrine Auditorium, which was attended by sports luminaries such as St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk, Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony, and the Greatest himself, Muhammad Ali.
EA has always been a great publisher for Xbox, Microsoft Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach told the crowd. Were strengthening our alliance by bringing EAs world-class games to Xbox Live, said Chip Lange, VP of Marketing for EA Sports and Games Nation, who echoed Bach's enthusiasm in a private interview with GameSpot. "We are supporting this system aggressively [by] putting our full might behind it," he said.
Lange also outlined EA's rapid timetable for bringing content to the Xbox Live format. In July, NCAA Football 2005 will be playable on Xbox Live, while the 800-pound gorilla of online sports games, Madden NFL 2005, will join the service in August. NBA Live 2005, FIFA Soccer 2005, NHL 2005, NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 will follow soon thereafter.
By the end of the year, 15 of EA's online-enabled console titles will be playable on Xbox Live, and the selection will extend beyond EA's sports franchises. Burnout 3 and TimeSplitters Future Perfect will also be Xbox Live-compatible, as will two even bigger franchises, Need for Speed Underground 2 and a new, previously unannounced, Xbox version of Battlefield: Modern Combat.
Speaking to GameSpot, Xbox Live General Manager Cameron Ferroni also revealed that EA's upcoming James Bond-inspired action game GoldenEye: Rogue Agent will also have Xbox Live functionality. "This is a landmark in online gaming," he said. "It's good for gamers."
Of course, one question will still be on many gamers' minds: "What took you guys so long?" When asked this question, Ferroni gave an honest answer. "[Microsoft and EA] were entering uncharted territory. We were two companies that were conservatively approaching the [online] space." Lange concurred, saying there never was a problem between the two companies. "EA has always been a platform-agnostic company," he told GameSpot, "[And] this marks a turning point for gaming."