Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Xbox 360 gets a head start on PS3

CONSOLE WARS Gamers flocked to buy the new Xbox 360 last Thursday, but Microsoft will still have its work cut out for it to gain share in the local market, analysts say


Alexander Huang, left, director of Microsoft's greater China region, presents one of the firm's next-generation Xbox 360 video-game consoles to Yu Cheng-lung, right, at the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Xinyi District last Thursday evening. Yu camped out for five days to be the first person to buy the console.


Oblivious to the chilly 16?C weather, a long line of more than 300 gaming fans snaked through the concourse of Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store (新光三越) in the Xinyi District last Thursday evening -- each eager to buy one of the first batch of Microsoft Corp's next-generation Xbox 360 video game consoles.

And just before 7:30pm -- 30 minutes after the official launch of the much-hyped console -- all 300 units allocated for initial sales had been snapped up.

Yu Cheng-lung (于正龍), a 29-year-old customer support executive at a technology firm, was the first in line, bagging the nation's first Xbox 360 unit, along with free goodies including accessories and game titles worth around NT$20,000.

He had camped out in the area for five days to secure his position.

"I especially like the new enhanced Xbox Live service, where I can play with other gamers around the world simultaneously," said Yu, who loves the Super Mario game.

He bought his first Nintendo Game Boy while in elementary school.

Introduced on Nov. 22 last year, sales of the Xbox 360 hit 1.5 million units by the end of December, with 900,000 units sold in North America, 500,000 in Europe and 100,000 in Japan.

Microsoft hopes to sell around 4.5 million to 5.5 million Xbox 360s by June.

On the local front, Microsoft Taiwan Corp refused to reveal its volume or sales targets, but industry sources estimated that the console's shipments will stand at around 12,000 to 14,000 units by the end of the month.

"Xbox 360 is set to offer gamers 360-degree enjoyment of digital entertainment. In addition to playing games, users can listen to music, watch movies and photos, and blend in with a PC running Microsoft Windows Media Center," Alexander Huang (黃存義), company director for the greater China region, told the crowd at the event.

The console was introduced in Hong Kong and Singapore on the same day.

To ensure that the console's release would cause a stir in the local market, Microsoft Taiwan invested more than NT$1 million in the launch party, and joined forces with firms from other industries, such as Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和) and 7-Eleven convenience stores.

"This time, the Xbox 360 comes with a fashionable design, making it a perfect fit with a TV set in the living room," said David Tai (戴宇翔), spokesman for Webzen Taiwan Inc, a local branch of a South Korean firm developing games for both the Xbox 360 and Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 (PS3).

Another selling point is Xbox Live, Microsoft's service that allows gamers worldwide to play with one another, and will eventually work with Microsoft instant messenger, said Jessica Hsu (許桂芬), a multimedia consumer electronics analyst with the Taipei-based Market Intelligence Center (MIC, 資訊市場情報中心).

However, the Xbox 360's head start does not guarantee that it will win more local market share from the PS3, even though Sony has delayed its release until early November due to problems with a copy-protection format for its Blu-ray high-definition DVD player.

This will put its launch a year later than Xbox 360's.

"Most vendors I talked to are still placing bets on the PS3. As the PlayStation offers more varieties of game titles and caters to Asian tastes, it has attracted a stronger base in Asia than Xbox," Hsu said.

Local PlayStation fans, who share similar tastes in role-playing games with their Japanese counterparts, are familiar with the console's interface, and therefore are willing to put their purchases on hold, she said.

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