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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 12:43 GMT
Fans rush to buy Xbox
Xbox fans in Oxford Street
Excitement mounted as the clock ticked towards midnight
Games console fans have been forming long queues to be among the first to get their hands on Microsoft's Xbox.

The Xbox, Microsoft's first games console, launched across Europe on Thursday.

In the UK, stores in London, Liverpool and Glasgow opened at midnight to allow fans to get their hands on the new machine, which costs 299 (479 euros across Europe).

A spokesman for London's Xbox launch store, Virgin Megastore Oxford Street, said 200 consoles were sold overnight.

The store expected to sell at least 500 more by the end of the day.

Despite the enthusiasm of the crowds, the Xbox is expected to face stiff competition from Sony's PlayStation 2.

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross was soon engrossed at London's Virgin Megastore
About 1.5 million consoles will be shipped initially to Europe but Microsoft expects many shops will sell out quickly with new machines arriving weekly.

The machine will be going head-to-head with Sony's PlayStation 2, of which there are 25 million consoles world-wide, and Nintendo's Gamecube, which has launched in the US and Japan and arrives in Europe in May.

Scott Rawlins, from Heathrow, was the first person in the UK officially to buy an Xbox.

He was presented with his Xbox by Virgin boss Richard Branson, who loaned him his limousine in which to travel home.

Xbox launched in the US last November and more recently in Japan, where there have been reports of problems with a small number of the machines.

Price tag

Microsoft says "significantly less than 1%" of machines shipped to Japan have caused scratches on some CDs and DVDs they play.

Sony's Playstation 2
The Xbox will have to challenge Sony's Playstation 2
Industry observers have praised the success of the US launch but many are sceptical about how well the machine will do in Japan, seen as the home of video gaming.

Microsoft is confident that that its higher price tag - about 100 more expensive than PS2 and 150 more expensive than the Gamecube - will not put off consumers.

Unlike the PS2 and Gamecube, the console boasts a hard disc drive, broadband connectivity and a more powerful processor.

Michel Cassius, head of publishing for Xbox Europe, said: "Everything is in place for a successful European launch.

'Latest technology'

"Xbox has got the latest technology and there is so much more in the box for your money."


Gamecube is the only totally dedicated games console on the market

David Gosen, Nintendo
Mr Cassius said 20 games would be available at launch, with 60 titles by June and with a further 250 games in development.

But Sony can point to a much larger array of games and recent titles such as Gran Turismo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2, which have showcased the capabilities of its machine.

It is continuing to push its market leadership with the PS2 with recent announcements concerning online gaming in Japan and the US for its users.

The Xbox also supports online gaming, but has yet to launch its internet plans.

'Extras'

But Mr Cassius said that the built-in capabilities of the machine would give the Xbox an advantage.

"Xbox is ready to go online and we have 20 publishers working on games for online."

Nintendo, whose Gamecube will be the last to join the global battle, recently announced details of a 100m euro pan-European marketing campaign, paving the way for the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube in Europe on 3 May.

"Over the last 25 years we have brought eight gaming platforms to market so we are pretty experienced about knowing what the consumer wants," said David Gosen, managing director for sales and marketing for Nintendo Europe.

He added: "Gamecube is the only totally dedicated games console on the market. The other machines play DVDs and CDs but we are only interested in doing games exceptionally well."

  • A man has been charged with stealing an Xbox following an alleged incident in Oxford Street, London, just hours after the games console went on sale at midnight.

    The man, who was remanded in custody, was due to appear at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court on Thursday.

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
    "For Microsoft it's more than a game"
    Rupert Goodwins, technology editor, ZD Net
    "Microsoft is going to have its work cut out, PlayStation 2 is established and Gamecube is cheaper."

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