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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 03:13 GMT 04:13 UK
Release date for Microsoft's X-Box
Wrestler The Rock and Bill Gates
The X-Box will go head-to-head with the Playstation 2
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Cannes

Microsoft's next generation console, the X-Box, will launch in Europe on 14 March next year, at a cost of 299 ($433), the software giant has announced.

The games console was unveiled at a glitzy ceremony in Cannes, France, on Tuesday night.

X-Box games out-perform the competition and will deliver some of the most powerful gaming experiences ever

Sandy Duncan
Hundreds of invited journalists, developers and distributors were given the chance to see the console first hand.

The machine will compete with Sony's Playstation 2 and Nintendo's Gamecube.

Sony recently cut the price of its latest console to 199 ($288), widely seen as an aggressive move to counter the launch of the X-Box.

Unveiled at the bizarre and surreal home of designer Pierre Cardin, the launch resembled a rock concert, with spotlights, searchlights, lasers and music provided by DJ Carl Cox.

European gamers

Sandy Duncan, vice-president X-Box EMEA, said 1.5 million consoles would be available in Europe in the first three months.

Microsoft is keen to avoid the problems suffered by Sony when it was unable to produce enough machines to satisfy demand when it launched last year.

Mr Duncan added: "On 14 March, the future of video games will be available to European gamers and their perception of gaming will change forever.

"X-Box games out-perform the competition and will deliver some of the most powerful gaming experiences ever, where the lines between fantasy and reality blur like never before.

Online gaming

"It's a great time to be a game player."

The X-Box has a built-in hard drive and is broadband-enabled as Microsoft hopes to develop the world of online gaming.

David Gardner, head of Electronic Arts, one of the world's largest software companies, said the X-Box would "allow Silicon Valley to meet Hollywood - Siliwood".

The next four weeks are crucial to the long-term future of Microsoft.

Stagnant market

The company's new version of its globally popular Windows system, XP, launches on 25 October.

It has been insulated from the economic effects of the 11 September attacks in the US, but market analysts fear that the stagnant PC market could see XP fare indifferently.

Instead, much of Microsoft's hopes will be invested in the X-Box, which will launch in North America on 15 November.

Microsoft, which reports quarterly results this week, will make a loss on each console sold but hopes to make money through the games.

See also:

24 Nov 00 | Entertainment
PlayStation2 : The review
29 Jan 01 | Business
Playstation goes mobile
12 Mar 01 | Business
IBM wins Playstation 3 contract
23 Jan 01 | Business
Sega linked to Playstation, XBox
07 Jan 01 | Business
Gates unveils Playstation rival
31 Jan 01 | Business
Sega scraps the Dreamcast
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