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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Xbox 360 set for November launch
Xbox 360 console, Microsoft
The Xbox 360 is expected to be a big seller at Christmas
Microsoft's next generation Xbox 360 games console will be in US shops on 22 November, the company has announced.

The software giant is set to be the first of the console makers to release a next generation machine.

Once launched in the US, the Xbox 360 is due to be in stores in Japan and Europe in early December. Up to 20 games will be ready at the launch.

The move could give it a vital edge over rival Sony which plans to release its PlayStation 3 in spring 2006.

Package deal

The 22 November date falls just before the US Thanksgiving holiday, which traditionally starts the end of the year shopping season.

Kameo: Elements of Power screenshot
Microsoft expects to have up to 20 games at launch
Official launch date for Europe is 2 December and in Japan on 10 December.

Christmas sales of the Xbox will be vital to Microsoft if it is to fulfil its ambition of clawing back market share from arch-rival Sony.

Sony launched its PlayStation 2 more than a year before Microsoft's first Xbox console, and with many more games.

Although the success of the PlayStation 2 was built on the back of the popularity of the first PlayStation the year-long lead it had over Microsoft contributed to the success.

The Xbox 360 will come in two packages. The high-end version will sell for $399.99 (279.99) and will include the console, external hard drive, wireless controllers, headset and membership of the Xbox Live gaming service.

The core version will sell for $299.99 (209.99) and includes console and wired controller.

Christmas rush

At launch Microsoft said up to 20 games would be ready and it expects that number of titles to swell to 40 by the end of 2005.

We will continue to make as much effort as we can to make the Xbox 360 successful in Japan
Yoshihiro Maruyama, Xbox Japan
"We expect a strong portfolio of titles on launch day and through the holidays that will appeal to fans of every genre and gamers in every region," said Robbie Bach, chief Xbox officer for Microsoft.

Microsoft would not say how many Xbox 360s it is stockpiling ready for Christmas shoppers but retailers are looking forward to a bumper season.

"Our plans for a massive launch are already under way, and we expect the excitement and demand will be enormous," said Tricia Brennan, Buying Director at Europe's largest games retailer, Game.

"We know that they will be in short supply at launch, new consoles always are, so customers' best chance of getting one as soon as possible is to pre-order one."

Michael Pachter, a games industry analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, predicted that two million units will be sold in the US and Europe.

But he did not venture a guess for how the 360 would do in Japan, the world's second-largest game market.

Microsoft has fared badly in Japan, with its original Xbox selling under 500,000 units, compared to 18 million PlayStation 2s and 3.8 million Nintendo GameCube.

"The Japanese market is the most important key for the Xbox's global strategy. Microsoft is committing fully to its success in Japan," said Yoshihiro Maruyama, general manager of the Xbox Division in Japan.

"We will continue to make as much effort as we can to make the Xbox 360 successful in Japan," he added, speaking ahead of the Tokyo Games Show which starts on Friday.

Sony has said it will release its PlayStation 3 in the spring of 2006, while Nintendo's next generation console, the Revolution, is also expected to go on sale in the next year.


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