NCAA Basketball dribbling on Xbox Live

Digitally distributed, scaled-down "March Madness Edition" of EA's collegiate b-baller coming to Microsoft's online service March 11 for $15.

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As with many of its other sports franchises, EA's NCAA Basketball franchise traditionally slots in around the end of the year when the collegiate hoops season kicks off. However, many people don't begin to become really interested in collegiate hoops until the NCAA's annual March Madness tournament.

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This year, EA hopes to better capitalize on that interest with NCAA Basketball 09: March Madness Edition, a download-only, scaled-down version of the full game. The game is expected to launch exclusively for the Xbox 360 on March 11 at a price of 1,200 Microsoft points ($15).

As detailed in GameSpot's interview with producer Connor Dougan, the downloadable game will initially let gamers play out the entire tournament with last year's teams. However, EA will update the game with this year's contenders on March 18, after the NCAA's release of the official Selection Sunday roster. The publisher also plans to revisit team rankings first established at the beginning of the season to better reflect teams' actual performance.

EA does not plan on making any substantive changes to NCAA Basketball 09's overall gameplay mechanics as part of the March Madness Edition. The publisher also notes that virtual ballers won't be able to take the game online for multiplayer matchups.

The NCAA Basketball 09: March Madness Edition downloadable game will not replace the Sunday Selection Bracket Pack, which EA had previously released for a fee in 2007 and 2008. The Bracket Pack, which contains updated ratings and a virtual bracket for all 65 tournament teams, will instead be released as a free download for Microsoft's console on March 18.

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