Grand Theft Auto, Halo 3 headed to Xbox 360
Microsoft focuses on key titles ahead of industry conference.
By Chris Morris, CNNMoney.com staff writer

LOS ANGELES (CNNMoney.com ) - Grand Theft Auto is coming to the Xbox 360 - and Halo 3's not far behind it.

Microsoft announced that the next installment of the extraordinarily popular and controversial "Grand Theft Auto" franchise will launch on its Xbox system Oct 16, 2007. This will be the first time a "GTA" title has launched for a system other than the PlayStation.

Microsoft said it has sold nearly 5 million Xbox 360s.
Microsoft said it has sold nearly 5 million Xbox 360s.

(Microsoft did not describe the relationship with publisher Take Two Interactive Software as exclusive, indicating PlayStation 3 owners will also be able to play the latest version, Grand Theft Auto 4, on Day One.)

And while it won't be out until next year either, "Halo 3" made its world debut Tuesday in trailer form. The two key gaming announcements were part of Microsoft's renewed assault for mindshare among gamers.

Sony's (Research) PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii are likely to get the lion's share of the media spotlight in the 2006 holiday season because they are new gaming systems. The Xbox 360 launched last holiday and is more familiar, so the company needs to make an extra push to keep it in the front of consumers' minds. On the other hand, developers have had more time to become familiar with the machine, which usually results in deeper and more fully realized titles. Microsoft considers this to be one of the key gaming advantages it will have in the upcoming holiday season.

The "Grand Theft Auto" franchise has sold roughly 40 million copies since its inception and is the flagship of Take Two's (Research) gaming catalog. "Halo 2," released in 2004, sold more than 8 million copies for Microsoft.

In addition to obtaining first-day rights to "GTA 4," Microsoft (Research) announced it had entered into a strategic relationship with Take Two to provide exclusive episodic content via its Xbox Live service.

Microsoft founder and chief software architect Bill Gates also made a surprise appearance at the pre-E3 press event to announce an expansion of Xbox Live, the system's popular online gaming service, which currently has about 3 million subscribers.

Live Anywhere will allow players on the Xbox 360, PC and cellphones to communicate and play together.

"When you think of Live Anywhere as a consumer, it will mean you're part of a community," said Gates.

The experience will vary slightly depending on which platform people are using. Xbox 360 owners will continue to be able to see their friends list and enter an online marketplace as they currently do. Besides seeing friends who are playing Xbox 360, they'll also be able to see friends who are logged onto MSN Messenger. PC users running the Vista operating system will be able to jump into a game seamlessly. Cellphone users must be running Windows Mobile.

Players who buy a game via the Xbox Live marketplace will also be able to play it on any platform (perhaps at a slightly higher price than the games currently cost). They will also be able to continue a saved game between devices.

"We really think this is a unique contribution and that Microsoft is probably the only company that can pull this off," said Gates.

What will the PlayStation 3 cost? As much as $599.

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