Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Microsoft slashes price of Xbox

GAMING OFFENSIVE In an attempt to expand its customer base and increase its gaming console market share, the software giant initiated a price war yesterday

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

US software giant Microsoft Corp yesterday said it will cut prices and offer new game titles for its Xbox video game consoles as it attempts to expand its customer base in Taiwan.

"We are pleased with the sales numbers in Taiwan over the past year," Alan Bowman, general manager of Microsoft's home and entertainment division for Asia-Pacific, said yesterday at a press briefing in Taipei.

Microsoft said it will cut the retail price of Xbox by around 10 percent, from NT$6,600 to NT$5,980 each.

"I believe the planned price cut and the launch of 120 new game titles by the end of the year will further boost our market share here," Bowman said.

The world's biggest software company started to sell its Xbox game consoles in Taiwan last November and has sold about 350,000 of the machines as of July, according to data obtained from various local retailers.

Globally, Microsoft has sold over 9.4 million Xbox consoles including over 1 million in Asia, said Grace Chou (周文英), manager of Microsoft Taiwan's home and entertainment division. She refused to reveal the exact sales figures for Taiwan.

Microsoft wants to use the price cuts to gain on rival Sony Corp's PlayStation 2 (PS2) ahead of the Christmas shopping season. Last week, the company announced in Japan that it would slash the price of Xbox by 32 percent starting yesterday, after Sony Computer Entertainment Inc said earlier this month that it would cut the price for a PS2 by 21 percent.

"We adjusted our pricing strategy by our competitors in different countries," Bowman said, explaining the different ranges of the price-cuts in various countries.

Sony said it has no plans to join a price war in Taiwan.

"With over a thousand PC games being released in the market, we have confidence in our product here," Sakura Wang (汪雅櫻), a public relations official at Sony Computer Entertainment told the Taipei Times yesterday. "For now we will still fix the price at NT$6,980 each."

As for Nintendo Corp, the Japanese company has already reduced the price of its GameCube machines from NT$5,980 to NT$4,980 each last month, and will not make further changes in a short period of time, said Tsai Hsueh-wei (蔡學煒), a director at Hak Uyu Co (博優公司), a distributor of Nintendo products in Taiwan.

According to the company's statistics, Sony has sold about 250,000 PlayStations in Taiwan since 2000. But, with over 20 million bootlegged consoles and a huge amount of game software being sold since 1994, Sony still leads the market worldwide, Wang said.

The price-cut strategy appears to have been effective in Europe. In April Microsoft cut Xbox prices in the European market and reported a 49 percent surge in sales in the UK, 46 percent growth in France and a 55 percent increase in Germany in May, the company said.

But one local game player said he doubts the strategy will strike the right note here.

"Taiwanese gamers, as well as other Asian game players, have gotten used to Japanese games produced by Sony or Nintendo," said Chris Chu (朱立人), a Taoyuan-based publishing professional who has been using gaming machines for about seven years.

Chu said Japanese companies have enjoyed an upper hand in the game console business because they provide a variety of game titles for enthusiastic players.

"If Microsoft wants to boost demand of its Xbox here, it should try to exploit new users who haven't become accustomed to a specific type of game," he added.

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