Poker, pigskin help rack up Xbox Live numbers

Microsoft releases new stats for online service usage; temporarily free card game sets one-day record for downloads while latest Madden has already seen 2 million hours logged online.

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In mid-May, Microsoft reported that Xbox Live Marketplace downloads had surpassed the 24 million mark, with more than one-fifth of those coming over the course of the previous week's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Since that announcement, the Marketplace has welcomed demos for Prey, Dead Rising, Saints Row, Ninety-Nine Nights, Rockstar Games Table Tennis, Just Cause, and Hitman: Blood Money, and Microsoft has launched the Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays program.

Today Microsoft announced the results of those efforts, since the Xbox Live Marketplace has now passed the 50 million download milestone. The publisher says gamers have spent 2 billion hours connected to Live since it launched for the original Xbox in November of 2002. More than 60 percent of Xbox 360 owners are connected to the service, with 65 percent of those (39 percent of all owners) having downloaded Live Arcade titles. Live Arcade titles collectively have been downloaded more than 8 million times since the Xbox 360 launched, according to Microsoft, and the company has sold more than 2 billion Marketplace points in the same span.

One of the most anticipated downloadable games and a featured game of the XBLA Wednesdays program was the hotly anticipated Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, which Capcom recently hailed as the fastest-selling Xbox Live Arcade title ever. Depending on how one looks at it, the arcade brawler has lost that crown. Microsoft has said that Texas Hold 'Em Poker managed 100 downloads per minute for its first 24 hours online (which works out to 144,000 in all), a one-day record on the Xbox Live service for any downloadable item. Texas Hold 'Em was available as a free download in its first 48 hours online.

It has been a busy month for Live--the release of Madden NFL 07 for the Xbox and Xbox 360 (among a plethora of other systems) earlier this month spiked numbers on the service. Microsoft said its online service hosted 2 million hours of online play--or enough Madden to fill up 228 years' worth of spare time--in the game's first week of release.

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