Long lines greet Xbox 360 in rainy New York debut

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Long lines greet Xbox 360 in rainy New York debut
NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 200 hard-core video game fans braved rain and chilly temperatures in Manhattan to be among the first to get their hands on Microsoft's new Xbox 360 video game console, which went on sale in North American on Tuesday.

"It's just the latest and greatest," said Michael Hamilton, 25, of Brooklyn, who was second in line to secure the new video game machine, designed to offer near-photo-realistic graphics and, like Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution due out next year, 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 colours and designs.

Ahead of Hamilton was Peter Gonzalez, 19, from Manhattan, who waited, shivering in a blue blanket, for nearly 30 hours in front of Best Buy Co Inc's midtown Manhattan store to be one of the first in the United States to buy an Xbox 360.

The crowd of gamers clapped and cheered when the first purchases were made.

"I feel amazing," said a shivering Gonzalez. The college student said he would stay up all night playing games before heading to classes in the morning.

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 two to one in the United States.

Gamers want more, not core

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

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

"It's like buying a car without the engine," said Eddie Buist, 29, from the Bronx.

Still, Microsoft, which is virtually tied with Nintendo for second place in the US$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.

"We 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," Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said.

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

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