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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
GameCube launches in Japan
A foreigner in Tokyo joins the queues for a GameCube AFP
Demand is high in Tokyo for the new console
Games enthusiasts have queued overnight in drizzling rain in Japan to buy Nintendo's new GameCube on the day of its launch.

Nintendo is aiming to take back its leadership in the games market with the "cute" new console.

In Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district and other shopping districts across the city, shop workers opened their doors to be met with lines of customers.

I wouldn't say the sales have been explosive, but the GameCubes have been selling well

Tsutaya spokesman
"Nintendo, they make games. They don't make just game machines, so whenever they make something, you know it is going to be quality," said Anthon Thomas, 19, a student from London, who flew to Japan to be one of the first to buy the console.

Nintendo has shipped 500,000 of the next generation consoles in Japan, in its bid to recover the lead from Sony's PlayStation 2.

The fact that only two games are available for the console on day one seemed not to deter the games fans, although there was nowhere near the furore that has greeted some console launches in the past.

Nintendo has built its name on characters such as Mario BBC
Nintendo has built its name on characters such as Mario
Even so, retailers were saying sales were strong at 25,000 yen (143) per console.

"Around 80% of our 180 stores have sold out their first batch of GameCubes," said a spokesman for supermarket chain operator Ito-Yokado Co Ltd.

Major video-rental chain Tsutaya said it expected to sell all its GameCubes by Sunday.

"I wouldn't say the sales have been explosive, but the GameCubes have been selling well, but maybe not as well as PlayStation 2 (when it launched)," said a spokesman for Culture Convenience Club, which part-owns Tsutaya.

Different market

GameCube's designed and beefed-up software line-ups represent a new strategy to stride ahead of PC-type systems.

Nintendo describes its product as an advanced luxury toy, unlike the all-in-one entertainment systems Sony and Microsoft Corp aim for with their games systems.

Nintendo has suffered in the struggle for the games market in recent years.

Nintendo's new GameCube console goes on sale in Tokyo AFP
Nintendo's new entry into the games market
In the mid 1990s, the first PlayStation took over as the iconic console after years when Nintendo was synonymous with computer games.

Nintendo gained a reputation for being less co-operative with independent games producers than Sony.

The delayed launch of the PlayStation 2 at the end of last year saw the beginning of a fresh round of competition, to be intensified next year when Microsoft's first foray into the console market - the Xbox - hits the shelves.

Games makers who ignored Nintendo's last console, which had 64-bit processing rate, are scheduling releases for the GameCube, which boasts double the capacity.

And some analysts believe that Nintendo's traditional appeal to younger gamers - contrasting with Sony and Microsoft's marketing to adults - means it will secure a greater foothold, of perhaps one third of the next generation market.

US launch

Still, the test will come when the GameCube is launched in the US in November of this year.

Fears that the recent disaster to befall New York and Washington DC will hit sales have contributed to a fall in Nintendo's share price.

"The attacks prompted the sell-off since investors are worried the incidents will chill consumers' Christmas shopping appetite for games," said Nobumasa Morimoto, senior analyst at Tokyo-Mitsubishi Securities.

"I do not think any Americans are thinking about buying games now."

See also:

13 Sep 01 | New Media
GameCube hit by attack fears
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