By Craig Zammit
SYDNEY: Australia’s wait for the Xbox 360 will finally come to an end tonight when the next generation console launches at 12:01am in stores nationwide.
With up to $40 million worth of consoles and software sales forecast in the first month of release, Australian retailers can expect a busy time ahead.
“We’re expecting quite a few people to turn up tonight, we have had a lot of pre-orders and lots of very excited people who have been waiting for tonight to come. We will be open till 2.00am, so we know it’ll be a huge night,” said a Harvey Norman New South Wales floor staff member, who wished to remain anonymous.
To celebrate the release of the console, Microsoft will be hosting a huge Xbox 360 launch party tonight in Sydney’s Pitt St Mall. Commencing at 9.00pm, Xbox 360 fans will get treated to outdoor interactive screens, celebrities, dancing girls, free food and more importantly, first access to the much awaited Xbox 360.
Pay Television network Channel V and radio network Nova will also be in attendance to broadcast the event to those members of the target demographic who are unable to attend.
Two versions of the console will be available for purchase, the Xbox 360 core system (RRP $499) featuring the Xbox 360 console itself, controller, face plate, AV cable and free Xbox Live subscription; and for the serious gamer there’s the Xbox 360 premium system (RRP $649) which includes the Xbox 360 console, media centre remote, 20GB built-in hard drive, wireless controller and free Xbox Live subscription.
The Xbox 360 will be available at 12:01am from JB Hi Fi, Harvey Norman, Myer, Dick Smith, Retravision and all other electrical and gaming retailers.
Microsoft has anticipated sales of over 270,000 consoles this year which will be supported by 80 software titles to be released over the next three months including 2006 Fifa World Cup, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Moto GP 2006 and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Legend.
With the recent delay in the release of the Playstation 3 console, Xbox 360 will have an eight month head start on the next generation Sony system. With the price of the Playstation 3 looking to be an absolute minimum of $599, industry analysts are questioning if the Playstation 3 can replicate the undisputed success of its predecessor, the Playstation 2.
Playstation currently holds 62.5 per cent market share of the $861 million gaming market, however Microsoft will be looking to increase Xbox’s market share from 33 per cent to 51 per cent, something the long window of next generation exclusivity will help to achieve.
And with consumers recently downloading the 10 millionth piece of content from the Xbox Live Marketplace, it seems Microsoft’s interactive online gaming service, which has been adopted by 85 per cent of the console’s owners, will be a key factor in establishing crucial consumer loyalty.
More downloadable content will also become available over the next month, with free arcade titles available for download including Street Fighter 2 and Riverbelle Casino’s version of Texas Hold ’Em Poker.
The release of the Xbox 360 could lead to increases in sales of flat screen high definition televisions, broadband routers and even PCs, with some analysts suggesting the IT market could benefit from a boom in sales of next generation consoles
“From a retailer point of view there’s a huge potential opportunity for the Xbox 360. From an internet point of view, the fact there’s a free level of service on Xbox Live will be an opportunity to get people into wireless networks and the like. It could even grow the PC market,” said Xbox product manager, Nick Segger.
“With Xbox 360 you can look at your photos or listen to music stored on your PC and even share them with others over Xbox Live. It broadens the experience of the device from a core gaming machine to something that can do a lot of multimedia stuff as well,” he said.