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MS reveals Xbox 360 release dates

Gears up for Japanese offensive

Microsoft will release its next-generation Xbox 360 games console on Tuesday, 22 November, the software giant announced last night.

Consumers in Europe will be able to get their mitts on the machine on Friday, 2 December - though we note Amazon.co.uk still has 28 November down as the release date, a timeframe more consistent with Microsoft's earlier prognostications - while Japanese buyers can expect to see the system on Saturday, 10 December.

The new Xbox will ship in Australia, Colombia, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan sometime in "2006", Microsoft added.

Microsoft has already revealed US, UK and European pricing, and yesterday it announced what Japanese buyers will pay: ¥37,900 ($344) for the full package, including the console's removable 20GB hard disk, wireless controller, remote control, headset, and Ethernet and AV cables.

Microsoft made the announcement on the eve of the Tokyo Games Show. Japan remains a tricky market for the company, which is hoping to dent Sony's colossal PlayStation-driven market share rather more this time round than it managed with the original Xbox.

Then, Microsoft was criticised for trying to win over Japanese gamers with titles favoured by Western players. Japanese consumers favour different styles of game to their North American and European counterparts, and Microsoft was accused of failing to understand such cultural differences.

In a bid to get the product right for Japanese consumers, Microsoft was forced to delay the Xbox's introduction, from December 2001 to February 2002. Hints that it was pondering such a move surfaced way back in March 2001. It did little good, in any case. Microsoft went on to take the axe to its Japanese Xbox workforce in March 2003, before going on to announce a strategic rethink of the Japanese market the following July. Xbox has yet to dent Sony or Nintendo's sales in the country, however.

This time round, Microsoft has made sure it has recruited some of the biggest names in Japanese gaming to the cause. It said it would be showing titles from Square Enix, Genki, Konami, Taito, Namco and others at the Tokyo Games Show. ®

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