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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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January 10, 2008 11:00 AM

Xbox Live had 900,000 simultaneous players; problems were 'growing pains'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I had a chance to ask Jeff Bell, corporate vice president of global marketing for Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, about the problems some Xbox Live users experienced during the holidays. We talked Tuesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show.

The company's gaming network had 900,000 concurrent players -- perhaps more -- during the holidays, Bell said, noting that that's the most Microsoft has ever recorded. Based on Microsoft's just-reported total Xbox Live membership figure of 10 million, that's nearly one in 10 members online at once.

It turned out to be too much for the servers that run the gaming network, and as a result, some people weren't able to log on. Bell repeatedly said Microsoft feels terribly about it. But he noted that the service never went down. It's just that some people were excluded from the fun.

"We thought we put in an awful lot of capacity when we launched 'Halo 3,'" Bell said. "We were so proud, as we sold now 8.1 million units of that game, and so many people are enjoying playing 'Halo 3' online that there wasn't a disruption, really, in that experience. And then we had another big spike because we're selling about 75 percent share of 'Call of Duty 4' versus our competition."

(Speaking of 'Halo 3,' Microsoft had nothing to say about when it might arrive on the PC platform. Kevin Unangst, global director of Games for Windows, wouldn't even answer when I asked him if it would be out, regardless of when.)

Back to Bell and the Xbox Live situation: "It's just really a matter of, I would almost say, growing pains. And we just feel terribly about it and we're taking steps to address it."

Pressed on what went wrong, Bell noted that he's not an electrical engineer and said it's a "multivariant situation that we're now addressing with software and hardware."

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