Microsoft builds Xmas Xbox momentum

The Xbox has moved into Harvey Norman stores in time for Christmas, bringing Microsoft's retail outlets for the console up to around 800 stores Australia-wide.

The console battle against Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube continues, with a host of titles, bundles and accessories due to hit shelves before the end of the year.

Around 90 new games will be available for the console by Christmas and around 300 more are in the pipeline, including titles from Microsoft's latest acquisition, UK-based developer Rare. The software giant yesterday confirmed the $US375 million buyout. Rare will now develop titles exclusively for the Xbox platform.

Microsoft will also release its S-controller in the Australian market next month. The device is smaller than the standard Duke controller and will be sold as a separate retail product for around $59.95. Microsoft will also launch a racing bundle as part of its sponsorship of V8 Supercar champion Mark Skaife. The High Octane Racing Pack bundles a copy of Skaife's book Diary of a Champion with racing games Project Gotham Racing and RalliSport Challenge and the Xbox console.

Alan Bowman, Microsoft's regional director for Xbox Australia, said this Christmas had the potential to be the biggest yet in games for retailers.

"The momentum we have has also been pushed along by our retail partners and their fantastic support at launch and since, and I thank them for that. They have worked terrifically with us to ensure the greatest customer experience possible, through things like the interactive display units."

The distribution model through Post Logistics has also worked very well, he said.

Bowman also pledged support for the introduction of the online gaming concept Xbox Live, although a date for its launch here has yet to be announced. Xbox Live will launch in the US on November 15 and in the UK next March.

"We remain fully committed to this fantastic new form of gaming," he said. "We are set up and ready to go, having included the terrific Ethernet feature for high-speed broadband gaming in the box."

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