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GameCube, Xbox scramble in Europe

Nintendo says it sold 1.5 million GameCube units in Europe last year, holding off rival Microsoft for second place in the hotly contested market for game consoles.

Nintendo said Tuesday it sold 1.5 million GameCube units in Europe last year, holding off rival Microsoft for second place in the hotly contested video game console market.

The company also said that it sold 3 million of its Game Boy Advance handheld players in Europe in 2002 and that a new model aimed at older players will be introduced this spring.

With the sales update, Nintendo maintained its slim hold on the No. 2 position in game consoles in Europe, well behind Sony's PlayStation 2 but just ahead of Microsoft's Xbox.

GameCube and Xbox are in a close battle for second place, analysts say, and Microsoft could overtake Nintendo in Europe, particularly if it sticks to an aggressive strategy of bundling free games in with each Xbox.

Ben Keen, executive director of market researcher ScreenDigest, forecast Tuesday that 1.4 million Xbox consoles and 6 million PS2 units were sold in Europe last year.

He also forecast that Xbox will outsell GameCube in 2003 by a margin of 2.6 million units to GameCube's 2.2 million units.

Nintendo European managing director David Gosen said the strategy in 2003 will be to push new game titles, but not touch the price tag. GameCube carries a suggested retail price of $207 (199 euros) in Europe, compared to $259 for the Xbox.

"We intend to make 2003 a strong year for GameCube, in which we focus on new games and we intend to build on our No. 2 position,'' Gosen said.

More than 80 new games will be launched for GameCube in 2003, he said, and more than 60 new Game Boy Advance games will come out.

A new and thinner Game Boy Advance, called Game Boy Advance SP, will be introduced in Europe on March 28. Current Game Boy Advance devices retail for about $103 in Europe.

Story Copyright  © 2003 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.