Sony’s PlayStation 3 console has enjoyed a record-breaking launch in Europe, with about 600,000 sold in the first two days, despite its being the last and most expensive of the new games machines to come on the market.

Sony said it estimated that about €400m worth of PS3 consoles, games and peripherals were sold across Europe on launch weekend.

The sales figure compares with about 500,000 Xbox 360 consoles sold by Microsoft in Europe in the first month after its release in December 2005. Nintendo sold about 700,000 Wii consoles in Europe in the month after its launch last December.

Retailers such as the UK’s Game Group and FNAC of France said they had seen huge demand for Sony’s machine.

In the UK, Sony’s biggest market in Europe, 173,000 PS3 units were sold in the first 48 hours of launch, compared with 70,000 Xbox 360s and 105,000 Wiis on their launch weekends.

The PS3 launch eclipses that of its predecessor, PlayStation 2, in 2000. PS2 took several weeks to reach similar sales. Sales of the Xbox 360, Wii and PS2 were hampered by lack of stock, however. Sony, which had delayed the European debut by several months, ensured a stock of 1m PS3s in stores.

The PS3 also launched with a larger library of games than its rivals. The PlayStation platform has the largest European installed base, with more than 42m PS2s sold in the region.

“I would expect the PlayStation 3 to do well initially because a lot of PS2 users had been waiting for the PS3 to come along,” said Paul O’Donovan, an analyst at the research company, Gartner. US figures suggest that the PS3 is performing marginally better than the Xbox 360 at the same stage of its sales cycle.

NPD, the research group, estimates that about 1.1m PS3 consoles have been sold in the US in the first four months since launch, compared with 1m sales for Xbox in its first quarter. A strong launch does not guarantee market dominance, however.

Many analysts say that while Sony will have no trouble selling the first 1m PS3s in Europe, it could struggle to find buyers for the £425 console once its loyal fan base is saturated.

Microsoft, which has had a year’s head start over its rivals, had sold more than 10m Xbox 360s globally by the end of last year. Gartner expects that by 2009 the PlayStation will have outsold both the Xbox 360 and Wii as more games are created for the machine.

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