Let the games begin

Let the games begin

The console gaming wars will reach new heights in the retail channel this Christmas as Sony and Microsoft square up in the battle for online supremacy.

As the new offerings from PlayStation 2 and Xbox go head to head, dealers will face a couple of challenges — price competition and the fact that PS2 and Xbox Live online gaming are restricted to broadband users.

Xbox marketing manager, Richard Hirst, said Microsoft would not be releasing figures for the local take-up of its online gaming offer but claimed about 10 per cent of American users had bought the starter kit to take the game online.

“Broadband penetration has been slower in Australia but we’re expecting pretty good take-up,” he said.

In Australia, the Xbox Live starter kit costs $99.95 and includes a headset to enable players to talk to each other, along with two games — Mech Assault and Moto GP. It also includes a 12-month subscription to the Xbox Live service.

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) is also pulling out all the stops to promote its online PS2 gaming. As previously reported in ARN, SCE recently offered PS2 to the reseller channel via a deal with Tech Pacific.

Peripherals category manager for the distributor, Joshua Velling, said the opportunity for resellers lies in the potential for selling consumer broadband bundles that include the PS2.

But even if resellers aren’t prepared to make a push for broadband sales they will be dealing consoles toe-to-toe with mass merchants in a very cut-throat market. Starter pack console bundles and popular game titles will be among the hottest property this Christmas.

Nintendo marketing manager, Greg Arthurson, said the company normally made about half of its console sales in the final calendar quarter.

“December alone accounts for 33 per cent of all console sales,” he said.

PS2 was seeing a similar spike in sales during the run-up to Christmas, according to an SCE spokesperson.

“We’re selling 10,000 [consoles] a week, it’s starting to hot up for Christmas,” Arthurson said.

While competitively priced consoles would lure consumers, games remain the key for vendors and resellers looking for ongoing sales.

“Software is crucial, and we have 82 per cent market share,” the SCE spokesperson claimed.

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