Europe - The Final Frontier

Europe - The Final Frontier Europe - The Final Frontier Europe - The Final Frontier

Wednesday midnight came and went and Microsoft, in true flamboyant style, launched their XBox in Europe and Australia. The console, which is already available in the U.S., Canada and Japan, was the star of quite a few promotional events all over Europe.

In Spain the legendary "Santiago Bernabeu" soccer stadium of Real Madrid was lit in "Xbox green" spotlights, in Paris shops where open at midnight while a French team of six gamers is probably still locked in a house, battling it out on the XBox for a TV audience. You can certainly see how far a global marketing budget of $500 million gets you.


In the UK, stores in London, Liverpool and Glasgow opened at midnight to allow fans to get their hands on the new machine, which costs £299 (479 euros across Europe).
A giant laser "X" crossed the skies in Oxford Street and elves handed out mince pies to those waiting in the cold.
The official XBox launch store, Virgin Megastore Oxford Street, claimed that 200 units were sold overnight, while another 500 where expected to go by tyhe end of Thursday.
Scott Rawlins, from Heathrow, was the first person in the UK to buy an Xbox.
He was presented with his Xbox by Virgin boss Richard Branson, who loaned him his limousine in which to travel home.
An 11 year old girl who managed to beat a TV presenter at Dead or Alive 3 received a free XBox unit. A man was charged with stealing an XBox unit only minutes after the console went on sale in the U.K.
The list of activities and promotional work goes on and on.

Initially 1.5 million units will be shipped across Europe, but Microsoft claims its European plant, in Hungary, is in gear and could meet demand as it rises.

The launch day lineup includes U.S. best-sellers Halo, Project Gotham Racing and Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee (from Microsoft's Game Studios) as well as third-party titles such as Dead or Alive 3 (Tecmo), Jet Set Radio Future (Sega) and Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (Activision), all of which are exclusive to the Xbox platform.

A total of 20 games are available today, and a total of 60 titles are scheduled to be available by the end of June. Many more are in development from some of the world's best game publishers and developers, including Electronic Arts, Infogrames, Sega, Codemasters, Eidos, Ubi Soft, Activision and Konami.

"Xbox is a welcome addition to European video game culture," said David Gardner, European general manager and senior vice president at Electronic Arts. "It's a terrific system that offers new levels of graphics, gameplay and fun. I've already played a few titles on Xbox, and I think European gamers are going to love this new video game system."

"EA games such as FIFA World Cup 2002 look and play great on Xbox," Gardner said. "In the next few months you'll see several more titles from EA including NBA Live and NHL 2002 and, later in the year, James Bond, Agent Under Fire."

"Microsoft has been a great partner to work with," said Scott Dodkins, senior vice president at Activision European Publishing. "It has listened to third-party publishers and kept us well informed along the way, allowing us to plan early to bring great games to Xbox."

"With Xbox we have the opportunity to start new franchises such as Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions and extend our proven franchises starting with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Star Wars Obi Wan from the Star Wars series by LucasArts Entertainment Company. The games look and sound better on Xbox, and this can only be good for everyone."

The Competition
Sony, currently, offers a much larger array of games and recent titles such as Gran Turismo 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2, which have showcased the capabilities of its machine.
It has also recently announced various promotional moves concerning online gaming in Japan and the US for its users and the decrease in price of certain older games.

XBox also supports online play but Microsoft has not yet announced a final implementation plan.

XBox's launches in the U.S. and Japan have been plagued by reported problems with the disc tray of some units, which may have scratched various game discs. Microsoft however, reacted quickly in all cases offering immediate replacements for any deficient unit.
Allthough Microsoft is bound to face stiff competition from the cheaper Sony PS2 and Nintendo GameCube, Michel Cassius, head of publishing for Xbox Europe, said: "Xbox has got the latest technology and there is so much more in the box for your money".

Many have accused XBox of being a PC with a fancy cover and suggest that the structure of the console, with an 8-gigabyte hard drive, a processor based on Intel's Pentium III, an Nvidia graphics chip and a broadband jack, is not gaming focused but hides Microsoft's plans for further uses of its console.

Nintendo the Final Contender
Nintendo, will be the last to join the global battle, with their GameCube console. The company recently announced details of a 100 million euro, pan-European marketing campaign, preparing the continent for the launch of the Nintendo Gamecube on May 3.

"Over the last 25 years we have brought eight gaming platforms to market so we are pretty experienced about knowing what the consumer wants," said David Gosen, managing director for sales and marketing for Nintendo Europe.

He added: "Gamecube is the only totally dedicated games console on the market. The other machines play DVDs and CDs but we are only interested in doing games exceptionally well."