Softimage Co., a subsidiary of Avid Technology, Inc., has formed a strategic development relationship with Microsoft Corporation to provide professional 3D art tools for modeling and animation for the Xbox video game system. Through this agreement, SOFTIMAGE|XSI animation software and SOFTIMAGE|RTK character middleware will support the creation of Xbox-specific content. "The stunning graphics performance of Xbox is powered by the NVIDIA graphics processing unit (Xbox GPU). Our strategic relationship with Softimage will bring the artist tools much closer to the target platform and offer unprecedented benefits to game developers using SOFTIMAGE|XSI," said Sanford Russell, director of partner relations for NVIDIA. "The powerful combination of the programmable pixel shader and vertex shader technology found in our nfiniteFX engine and the unique graphics and animation tools in SOFTIMAGE|XSI will allow artists to transfer their vision to the display on Xbox by allowing them to control their art at every step of the creation process." Softimages business development director Alan Waxenberg added, "Using SOFTIMAGE|RTK Motion, game developers are able to focus on content creation, rather than writing and rewriting engines. Softimages tools will allow Xbox developers to synthesize character motions in real-time, producing higher quality, more intelligent and more realistic characters." Xbox, Microsoft's next-generation gaming system is positioned to become one of the most advanced on the market. On Wednesday, May 16, 2001, during a live Webcast at the E3 conference, the plans for the Xbox launch were revealed to the world. Starting November 8, 2001, Xbox consoles will be available for purchase at retail outlets throughout North America. Xbox will be available at an estimated retail price of $299 USD. 600,000 - 800,000 units will be available on day one.