The first game download service for a console has been launched in Europe, with Microsoft rolling out the Xbox Live Arcade - a service which will allow users to purchase and download a variety of games.
In order to get started with the service, users need a special launcher disc - which will be bundled free with new Xboxes, is available from selected retailers or can be acquired by calling Microsoft on 0800 587 1102 (in the UK).
The disc features 12 demos of games already available, which include card and boardgame titles such as Poker, Hearts, Spades, Backgammon, Chess and Hardwood Solitare - the latter offering "more than 140 versions of solitaire", apparently.
The puzzle and trivia category includes classics like Bejeweled and Zuma as well as Fuzzee Fever, while action/arcade games such as Alien Sky, Mutant Storm, Feeding Frenzy and Marble Blast are also on offer.
And finally, there's a range of 'Social Sports' games, like bowling, billiards and golf.
The demos on the disc are free to play, and users don't even need an Xbox Live connection to enjoy them, but full downloads start at an introductory price of UKP 7.49 for the basic games and UKP 11.50 for more advanced ones. We're told that more games will be added to the Xbox Live Arcade every month.
The launch of the service comes almost exactly a month after Nintendo pledged to make downloadable games into a key part of the offering on its Revolution next-generation console, which will be capable of playing most games from the firm's huge back catalogue - including NES, SNES and N64 titles which will be made available for purchase and download over the internet.