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Xbox launch & price confirmed

Just in time for holiday shopping, naturally

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Microsoft will launch the Xbox game console on 8 November, just in time for the holiday shopping rut, and sell it for a modest $299, the company announced Wednesday.

Now it has to get kids to pester Santa for it, instead of a PS2 or Nintendo's new GameCube. For that, MS is prepared to spend a whopping $500 million marketing the things.

The company cheerfully said it expects to sell between 1 million and 1.5 million Xboxes during the holidays, and should have 600,000 to 800,000 of them in store warehouses before the launch.

While Microsoft hastens to point out the Xbox will outperform the PS2 and the GameCube, few buyers are motivated by benchmarks alone. It's the games that sell the boxes -- and earn the profits.

There will be 15 to 20 games available at launch time, the company reckons. Undoubtedly these will form the backbone of its marketing campaign, and will, of course, make or break the product in an already crowded marketplace.

Whether MS can come up with 15 or 20 games so incomparably kewl that a million and a half kids will turn their noses up at Sony's and Nintendo's remains to be seen.

And we're not exactly betting on it. ®

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