Microsoft Corp. today announced the first Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend, presented courtesy of Verizon. From March 31 through April 2, Xbox 360 gamers are invited to connect to Xbox Live and enjoy an action-packed weekend of multiplayer gaming in a community of 2 million players, free of charge.

The Verizon-sponsored Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend will feature 72 hours of nonstop events, constituting the largest programming effort of online Xbox(R) multiplayer games ever. Events will include the following:

— A 72-hour multiplayer schedule of the most exciting games on Xbox 360

— Xbox Live Arcade leaderboard tournaments

— Xbox Live Play and Win contests

— Xbox Live veterans hosting new gamers on Xbox Live

In addition, the exclusive Verizon One Million Microsoft Points giveaway offers gamers the chance to win points to purchase the latest Xbox Live Marketplace digital downloadable content, including Xbox Live Arcade titles and the hottest game and entertainment content, while supplies last.

“This blend of technology — Xbox 360 and a Verizon broadband connection — gives gamers the best possible online experience,” said Jerri DeVard, senior vice president of national marketing and brand management for Verizon. “We think that providing gamers with exposure to this amazing service combination will change the way they view their Xbox 360 and gaming in general. Verizon is proud to deliver the first-ever Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend.”

Xbox Live momentum has accelerated since Xbox 360 was launched, with more than half of all Xbox 360 owners connecting with the online games and entertainment service, which boasts a worldwide community of more than 2 million members.

Verizon provides high-speed broadband connections to more than 5.1 million American households, providing digital subscriber line (DSL) access at various speeds and even faster access services using the company’s all-fiber-optic FiOS Internet service, available at downstream speeds up to 5 megabits per second (Mbps), 15 Mbps and 30 Mbps.

“The Verizon sponsorship is a gaming platform first, demonstrating that online gaming through Xbox Live is a proven form of mainstream entertainment,” said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “We commend Verizon for providing Xbox 360 gamers with the opportunity to play exciting new games with or against anyone, anywhere, for free.”

Additional details about the Verizon-sponsored Free Xbox Live Gold Weekend events can be found online at .