Xbox 360 outmanoeuvres its launch glitches

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A shortage of consoles and compelling new games, a lacklustre launch in Japan and early technology glitches have done little to detract from the successful global launch of the Xbox 360, according to video games industry analysts.

The Xbox 360, Microsoft’s attempt to steal leadership in the games industry from Sony’s PlayStation, has become this year’s must-have Christmas gift in gaming circles in the US and western Europe. But the shortages and the resulting “buzz” they have created are partly a reflection of the slow ramp-up in production of the machines.

“We don’t think this was staged but we’re a little surprised there hasn’t been more information about follow-up shipments,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering in the US.

Makers of the most sought-after Christmas gifts, such as the latest Nintendo hand-held games machine last year, generally kept retailers informed about extra shipments they were rushing out before the holidays, he added – something Microsoft had not done.

Any unhappiness this has caused among retailers and potential customers, however, has been balanced by media coverage of unmet demand for the products, according to analysts.

In Japan, where the new machines went on sale a week ago, early demand fell short of that in the US and Europe.

According to Enterbrain, a video games research group, about 40 per cent of the 159,000 consoles shipped to Japanese stores were sold in the first weekend, a contrast with other markets where they sold out quickly.

“That’s a disappointment for them but not altogether a surprise,” said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner.

However, by getting its new console to market before Sony, which has promised a new version of the PlayStation next year, Microsoft had succeeded in gaining early attention, most analysts said.

Additional reporting by Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo

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