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Gaming

Microsoft confirms Xbox shortage

Most major retail outlets are out of stock as Microsoft scrambles to keep up with demand.

How about a nice game of Parcheesi?

That may be the only choice for gamers, as Microsoft on Monday confirmed a retail shortage of its Xbox video game console, the latest piece of game hardware to thwart shoppers.

Many major retailers are fresh out of Xbox consoles, with no indication of when they'll be back in stock. CompUSA's Web site shows the basic $150 Xbox package out of stock at all stores in metropolitan areas such as New York, Los Angeles and Northern California.

Amazon.com also is out of stock, while specialty retailers EB Games and GameStop only have used consoles or new ones in "bundles" that require the purchase of expensive add-ons. Bundles are also the rule for the online arm of retail giant Wal-Mart.

Best Buy was one of the few major chains to report widespread availability of the basic Xbox package both in stores and online.

A Microsoft representative confirmed the shortage but would not disclose details. "It's true that surging popularity has led to an inventory issue at retail," according to a statement. "Alongside our partners, we are working to increase our inventory position to catch up with the consumer demand for Xbox."

Microsoft posted better-than-expected Xbox hardware sales over the 2004 holiday shopping season, thanks largely to the overwhelming interest in its "Halo 2" game.

Retailers reported localized shortages over the holiday season, but nothing compared to widespread sellouts of Sony's rival PlayStation 2, which suffered from slow restocking after a redesign of the hardware and a miniature Suez Crisis when a container ship full of PS2 consoles went astray near the Mediterranean.

Xbox shoppers are still likely to have an easier time, however, than those in quest of Sony's new PlayStation Portable handheld game player. The PSP goes on sale in North America on Thursday of this week, and many retailers have already sold out of initial shipments through advance orders.