Report: XBL Poker won't be free

Manager of Xbox Live Arcade says gamers will ante up for upcoming Texas Hold 'Em game; release date also in question.

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Back in March 2006, the news was great for Microsoft. The company boasted that production on the Xbox 360 was being ramped up by two to three times what it was at, Xbox Live Marketplace surpassed 10 million downloads, and several new pieces of content, including a free download of Texas Hold 'Em Poker, were en route.

Fast-forwarding to today, Xbox 360s are no longer scarce and Xbox Live Marketplace continues to buzz along--but apparently Texas Hold 'Em is going to cost gamers some cash.

Speaking with game blog Joystiq, Xbox Live Arcade group manager Greg Canessa said that gamers will have to pay to play the popular card game.

"First of all, [Texas Hold 'Em Poker] won't be free. We haven't decided on what the final price will be, but it will not be free," he told Joystiq.

GameSpot contacted Microsoft for confirmation, but the company would only say, "We have not yet provided any official details regarding pricing on this title. Texas Hold 'Em Poker is still in development, and full details regarding the launch date will be announced."

So why the change of heart? Early Internet reports stated that the game would be free because it was being sponsored by Riverbelle.com, an online casino. The Xbox.com listing for the game makes no mention of Riverbelle anywhere, an odd business practice for a major sponsorship deal. One possibility is that Riverbelle dropped its sponsorship, perhaps forcing Microsoft to charge for the game. Attempts to reach Riverbelle were unsuccessful as of press time.

But that's not all. The game's release date of August 23 may have folded. On Xbox.com, the game's Web page now shows a release date of "TBD." As for when gamers can begin bluffing on Xbox Live, Microsoft would only say, "Specific details regarding the launch of Texas Hold 'Em Poker have not yet been announced, please stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks."

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