Gamers are likely to have a hard time getting hold of the Xbox 360 when it goes on sale in the UK on Friday.
The Xbox 360 sold out quickly in the US
Most shops have already sold out of all their stock because so many people have pre-ordered the new Microsoft console.
The Xbox 360 sold out quickly when it was released in the US last week, with some cashing in by offering consoles on the online auction site eBay
The machine is the first of the next generation of consoles, marking the start of a new era in video games.
It is one of the most eagerly-awaited consumer electronics debut of the year and vying with Apple's iPod at the top of many people's Christmas lists.
'Less obvious' shops
Sony and Nintendo are planning to unleash their next gen consoles during 2006, giving Microsoft an edge over its rivals by releasing the 360 now.
The software giant is virtually tied with Nintendo for second place, way behind Sony, in a games market worth $25bn globally.
Microsoft expects to ship up to three million 360s worldwide within 90 days.
But the company has admitted that the worldwide launch of the console could mean shortages in the run-up to Christmas.
Microsoft has suggested that some 300,000 Xbox 360s are likely to be available for Friday's European launch.
"Xbox 360 is the hottest gift this Christmas and will be hard to find," said UK Xbox director Neil Thompson.
"But we're working hard to ensure there's a regular replenishment of stock to retail."
The advice from Microsoft about tracking down an Xbox 360 on launch day is to hunt down "less obvious" shops to buy one in.
Many UK stores have already sold out of their pre-ordered allocations and are warning gamers that they may come away empty-handed on Friday.
"We could sell our initial allocation of Xbox 360s 50 times over. Unfortunately it is a highly desirable product that is in short supply," said Woolworths spokesperson Gerry Berkley.
An HMV spokesperson said it had twice as many pre-orders for the console than stock it has ready for the launch.
The Xbox 360 console went on sale in the US on 22 November to much fanfare, though the launch was dogged by reports of crashing consoles.
Microsoft acknowledged the reports but said incidents were isolated and involved a "very, very small fraction" of all the consoles sold.
The Xbox 360 goes on sale in the UK and Europe on 2 December costing £209.99 or £279.99 including a package of accessories. It is due to be released in Japan on 10 December.