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Xbox offering a lot of extras

Maureen Farley demonstrates the new karaoke feature of Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox video gaming system.
Maureen Farley demonstrates the new karaoke feature of Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox video gaming system.
Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

REDMOND, Wash. — If titles like "NFL Fever 2003" and "Midtown Madness" don't excite you, how about "I Will Survive"?

As Xbox from Microsoft Corp. enters its third holiday season, the company is hoping to broaden its appeal by offering extras that have nothing to do with video gaming.

There's "Music Mixer" — software and a microphone that turn the Xbox console into a karaoke machine. Customers can also transfer music files and digital photos to their Xbox consoles for playback on the TV.

Microsoft hopes to win over more members of the family than just the hard-core video game players. That is key for Microsoft's efforts to take market share from the likes of Sony Corp. and Nintendo Corp.

Microsoft has been spending billions on the Xbox video game console and Xbox Live online video game service.

Music Mixer is "a really good step forward," said analyst Michael Gartenberg of Jupiter Research. "They're extending the function of Xbox to a broader audience, but at the same point they're not doing anything that would risk the core functionality."

Sony has tried to expand its audience by making its PlayStation2 consoles able to play compact discs and DVDs. In November, Sony plans to sell an "EyeToy" — a digital camera that mirrors the player's head, shoulder and arm motions and translates that into actions on-screen. It's supposed to appeal to those less deft with controllers.

Meanwhile, in another sign of Microsoft's aggressive strategy, Microsoft recently announced it would launch Xbox Live in South Korea in October, hoping to benefit from the country's world-leading rate of high-speed Internet use. Xbox originally failed to do well in South Korea, mainly because of a lack of Korean-language game titles.