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Nintendo has cut the retail price of its forthcoming GameCube console from $399 to $329 just three weeks before its launch in Australia.

The 17.5 per cent price drop is hot on the heels of Microsoft's announcement last week that it would slash the price of its gaming console, Xbox, by nearly 40 per cent, to $399 from $649.

Nintendo's director of sales and marketing, David Yarnton, said the decision to decrease the GameCube price before the launch is part of the company's commitment to bringing the console to market at the best possible price.

Microsoft's decision to drop the Xbox price six weeks after its launch was driven by competitive pressure from rival gaming console Sony PlayStation 2, according to Alan Bowman, Australian regional director of Xbox.

The Xbox has also experienced floundering sales figures. After selling nearly 10,000 units in its first week, Xbox has sold a total of just over 18,000 consoles in the six weeks since its launch, according to channel research company Inform.

With the two newcomers having announced price cuts, all eyes are now on market leader Sony. The company launched its PlayStation 2 console in Europe and Australia in November 2000 and currently has a recommended retail price of $499.

A spokeswoman for Sony said the company was watching prices and market conditions, and will make a cut when it deems necessary, but has not yet reached that conclusion.

Nintendo expects to sell 50,000 units in Australia within the first month, and estimates 200,000 GameCube consoles will be sold here by the end of the year.

The GameCube is launched on 17 May.


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