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Stores open late for UK Xbox launch

LONDON, England -- Stores around the UK were opening at midnight on Wednesday for the launch of Microsoft's new Xbox game console.

The Xbox has been available for purchase in the United States since November last year, but the launch in Japan a fortnight ago was overshadowed by reports that some machines scratched the CD games.

Microsoft said the problem affected only 1 percent of machines, and insisted on going ahead with the European launch.

The Virgin Megastore on London's Oxford Street was one of the stores opening at midnight to allow fans to get their hands on the machine.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and television presenter Jonathan Ross were among those appearing at the event.

Microsoft hopes that marketing the Xbox as the world's most powerful console will sell between 4.5 and six million units worldwide by the end of June.

Analysis: Clash of the video game consoles 
Play with 3-D models of the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube (created by Cycore Creative) 

One of biggest competitors to the Xbox is the GameCube -- gaming rival Nintendo's machine -- which will be on the UK market in May at half the price.

Both will attempt to steel a slice of the profitable games sector already captured by Sony's PlayStation2, which was launched in November 2000 and has sold 18 million units worldwide.

But Nintendo's managing director in Europe, David Gossen, said he did not see Xbox's head start as a threat to the GameCube and said he was relying on GameCube titles and Nintendo's 20 years game-making experience to attract consumers.

Gossen said that Nintendo was spending 100 million on the launch of its console.

Xbox marketing manager, Richard Teversham told the UK Press Association: "It's time for the talking to stop and the playing to begin. In the early hours of Thursday morning thousands of gaming pioneers will experience the future first hand."

James Ashton-Tyler, Editor in Chief of the Official Xbox Magazine, has played all 20 games currently available for the new console and believes it will be a big seller.

"It is going to excite what I call hard-core gamers, the people who are really into games, " he said. "What I see it doing is capturing the market within six months and selling one million units in the UK by Christmas."


• Xbox
• PlayStation 2
• GameCube

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