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Germany

Video Game Freaks Rejoice!

Microsoft's Xbox makes its European debut this week, with a limited game selection but high hopes that it can do direct battle with Sony's Playstation 2.

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Gates hopes to be in the driver's seat in Europe's video game market

Parents from Dublin to Athens will cringe this week as Microsoft finally brings its Xbox video game system onto the European market.

Beginning March 14, Europeans will be able to get a taste of the system Microsoft hopes will soon challenge Sony’s Playstation 2 for domination of the video game console market.

The Xbox combines a video game system with a DVD player and allows players to connect voice-activated headsets. The Microsoft marketing machine is quick to laud the console’s superior graphics and gaming capabilites.

At the Xbox’s introduction in January 2001 Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates described it as "an extended PC - a PC that talks to the TV set-top box, talks to the music player devices, co-ordinates with other PCs."

Xbox hit the market in United States and Canada in November of last year and did pretty well against the Playstation 2 and Nintendo’s latest creation, the Game Cube.

Gates announced that 1.5 million units had been sold between its November launch and Christmas 2001. But it was still far behind Sony, which reported sales of 2.5 million in the same period in America alone.

Looking to go big in Europe, Japan

Gates is hoping Europe and Japan, where he launched the Xbox in February, will help turn those figures around. Microsoft said they plan to ship 4.5 million consoles worldwide by this Summer, with 1.5 million of those destined for Europe.

The US sales have been supported by a $500 million marketing campaign. But the number of games available for the video-game system might decide more than any ad campaign.

Only 17 games will be availble to European users on the day of the launch, with the number most likely increasing to 30 before summer. Playstation 2 already boasts 100 plus games.

Like the console itself, the games will also be more expensive than in America. Titles are currently selling at $49.99 (57 euro). The games will cost 69.99 euro in Europe. The console itself sells for 479 euro.

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