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Gamers wait in rain for Xbox 360 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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NEW YORK/SEATTLE (Reuters)- Hundreds of video game fans braved chilly temperatures on both U.S. coasts on Tuesday to be among the first to get their hands on Microsoft Corp.”s new Xbox 360 video game console, which went on sale in North America on Tuesday.

Hundreds of gamers camped out in front of stores, braving rain in Manhattan and dense fog in Seattle, to get their hands on the new video game machine, designed to offer near-photo-realistic graphics, play music and video and link up gaming communities over the Internet.

Like Sony Corp.”s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Co. Ltd.”s Revolution due out next year, Xbox 360 is a more powerful system designed to appeal to a wider swath of consumers. Instead of the black, bulky original Xbox, Microsoft designed the white-and-silver Xbox 360 with more curves and a smaller profile, with a detachable front panel that can be swapped out with panels of various colors and designs.

&#34I feel amazing,&#34 said Peter Gonzalez, 19, from Manhattan. Gonzalez, shivering after waiting nearly 30 hours in front of Best Buy Co. Inc.”s midtown Manhattan store to buy the new Xbox.

The college student said he would stay up all night playing games before heading to classes in the morning.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates showed up at a Best Buy store before midnight in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, situated between his house and Microsoft”s Redmond, Washington, headquarters, to play games and hand out the first Xbox 360 console sold at the store.

Dan Friedman, 26, a Microsoft programmer in a division unrelated to the Xbox business, took time off from work to line up for over three days to get the first Xbox 360.

&#34It”s worth it, it”s totally worth it,&#34 said Friedman, who spent $1,058.47 to buy the $400 console along with various games and accessories.

The crowds of gamers in both stores — Best Buy is Microsoft”s official retail launch partner — clapped and cheered when the first purchases were made.

The November debut gives Microsoft a valuable head start with consumers. But analysts question whether the software giant will be able to grab the lead from Sony, whose PlayStation 2 has outsold Microsoft”s original Xbox by more than 2 to 1 in the United States.

Microsoft is offering two versions of the Xbox 360. The basic &#34Xbox 360 Core System&#34 sells for $300, while a $400 version has a removable hard drive and can play older Xbox titles. Most buyers were expected to purchase the $400 model.

About 90 of the self-professed hard-core gamers in line in New York were frustrated that they had to buy the $300 system because the more expensive model was sold out.

&#34It”s like buying a car without the engine,&#34 said Eddie Buist, 29, from the Bronx.

Still, Microsoft, which is virtually tied with Nintendo for second place in the $25 billion global video game market behind Sony, has said it aims to sell 2.75 million to 3 million Xbox 360s in the next 90 days.

Microsoft launched the Xbox in 2001, well after Sony delivered its best-selling PlayStation 2 to the market. This time, Microsoft executives say they have an edge by launching well ahead of main rival Sony.

&#34We learned a lot in the first round. We”ve got a chance not just to have higher market share, but also to grow the size of this market substantially,&#34 Gates said.

The world”s largest software maker plans to launch the Xbox 360 on December 2 in Europe and on December 10 in Japan.