First Out May Not Mean Much for Xbox 360

Microsoft won’t really gain much of a competitive advantage by getting a jump on its game console rivals Sony and Nintendo, one analyst said today as the software giant announced the hardware’s official release dates.

The Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth announced today that it would release the Xbox 360 in the United States on Nov. 22, just in time for the holiday shopping season. The European launch will follow on Dec. 2 and the Japanese launch on Dec. 10. The dates came as no surprise, as the company had been saying all along the next generation console would be out for the 2005 holidays.

Short-Lived Advantage

“It gives Microsoft the advantage of launching first. The first couple of years will make their numbers look really good. But, if you ask me if it will be the thing that finally puts Microsoft in control of the market, no, it’s not,” Schelley Olhava, program manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Two versions of the Xbox will be available in the United States and Europe, Microsoft said. The “core” system will cost US$299. The premium package will add a hard drive, wireless controller and high-definition television connectors for an extra $100. The hard drive is necessary if users want to play their original Xbox games.

Microsoft said the reason for the single product in Japan is that research showed the bundle would do better in that market, according to Olhava, but she added, “I’m not sure I believe that.”

She said Microsoft may have taken a lesson from Sony, which released two versions of its PSP handheld gaming device in Japan only to find that the higher priced bundle was the one that sold.

Wait and See

Olhava said she’s not convinced Microsoft’s advantage will last, partly because, “Not everyone runs out to buy a new console the minute it’s launched. Some people aren’t even aware that a new console is coming out. It’s a cost issue, too. Do we want to spend this amount of money?”

Other consumers will wait to see what all the consoles are like before choosing one. Sony’s PlayStation 3 is due out in spring 2006 and Nintendo has said only that the successor to its GameCube, called Revolution, will be out next year.

The bottom line for consumers, Olhava said, is the games themselves, so many will wait to see how play compares and what titles will be available for each before making a decision.

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