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Sony, Microsoft Hit Game Console Targets

Sony and Microsoft said on Sunday they hit sales targets as their PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles battle for top billing in the $30 billion game market.

Sony shipped one million of its new PS3 consoles to North America by
the end of 2006, as planned, but did so by diverting units from Japan, Sony Computer Entertainment America Chief Executive Jack Tretton, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Microsoft said shipments of its Xbox 360 video game console reached 10.4 million worldwide at the end of 2006, beating its target of ten million as it works to sustain the momentum gained by launching its console in a year ahead of competitors from market leader Sony and Nintendo.

David Cole, president of DFC Intelligence, said Sony's PS3 2006 shipments came in a little ahead of Microsoft's Xbox 360 numbers for its first holiday season in stores in 2005 but underscored that the race for No. 1 is just getting started. "You're barely 10% into this generation," he said.

With the holidays out of the way and initial hype on the wane, Cole said gamers can settle down and assess the rival systems. "Consumers can step back and take a longer look at what offers what," he said.

In his keynote speech at CES, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said the company would offer an Xbox 360 game console that doubles as a set-top box for its fledgling Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) service, which delivers high-quality video over Internet networks.

Sony has had an iron grip over the video game console market with its two previous PlayStation models -- combined unit sales of which have hit more than 200 million globally -- but its launch of the PS3 was beset by delays. "We had to make some decisions from a territory to territory perspective," said Tretton.

"Within a week, at the most, a million units will be in (North American) consumers' hands," he said. Tretton declined to say how many units were shifted from Japan or whether the company met its goal of shipping a total of two million units to North America and Japan by year-end.

But Sony said on Sunday it was on track to ship six million PS3 consoles worldwide by the end of March 2007.

The company airlifted PS3 systems into North America on a weekly basis in an effort that helped it reach the one-million-unit shipment mark for North America faster than it did with previous PlayStation consoles, Sony said.

Tretton said North America is Sony's largest video game market and the company's focus during the PS3 launch. He added Sony would make up Japan supplies during this year and said the European PS3 launch -- slated for March -- remained on track. "We're equally strong in all three markets. We can't afford to sacrifice any one of them," Tretton said.

Sony's high-end PS3 retails for $600 in the United States while the premium Xbox 360 sells for $400 and the lower-tech, $250 Wii from Nintendo.

Nintendo, which entered the current console war in the underdog position, has said it expects to ship four million Wiis worldwide by year end and has captivated cynical gamers with the Wii's interactive features.

Shortages of the Wii and PS3 were intense during the all-important holiday season and are expected to last into 2007.

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