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LONDON Microsoft’s pending European launch of its Xbox 360, scheduled for December 2, is likely to cause huge disappointment for eager consumers. Retailers report a severe shortage of the new games console, and blame Microsoft for not being able to manufacture enough to meet initial demand.
The shortage mirrors the experience of U.S. consumers following the launch of the games console there earlier this week, with many retailers reporting they have sold their initial stock within days.
The news also follows reports of technical glitches and bugs, the most serious being repeated failures to load games and crashes during play. The reports also come a day after a number of companies reported on teardowns of the Xbox 360 and at least one, iSuppli, suggesting Microsoft could be losing up to $135 on each machine based on just the cost of components.
Two of the top U.K. retailers of computer games and consoles, HMV and Woolworths, both said that they would have no Xbox 360s available on December 2 for those who have not pre-ordered, while the leading electronics retailers Dixons and Comet said that stocks were extremely limited.
Woolworth’s said it has sold out completely and will not have Xbox 360s be on sale on the launch date.
Even though retailers have been known to exaggerate supply shortages to try to get consumers into their shops, it is unusual for so many to suggest to would-be buyers that they should not bother because they have no stocks left.
Microsoft’s problem stems partly from the fact it decided to launch the games console on a near-simultaneous basis worldwide, in an attempt to maintain a lead over Sony, which is expected to launch its long-awaited PlayStation 3 next year. The Xbox 360 is set to launch in Japan a week after the European introduction.
Microsoft seems aware of the retail drought. Robbie Bach, president of the company’s Entertainment and Devices division, told U.S. publication GameSpot : "We are well aware that many gamers are disappointed to have not gotten their Xbox 360 on day one. We are working around the clock to manufacture as many Xbox 360s as we can and are replenishing our retail channel week after week."