Sales figures for Microsoft's Xbox are disappointing despite Microsoft's insistence that the console is selling well. The man behind the Xbox launch, Rick Belluzzo, has resigned his post.
This fits to an extent a recent PC Advisor poll in which voters overwhelmingly backed the PC as the best games machine. But the Xbox did manage to pull in nearly one in ten voters, an astounding result when judged against the fact that the machine wasn't even released when the poll opened.
A national conspiracy to hide the Xbox's first day sales figures seemed to have hit UK retailers when PC Advisor went sniffing around, with all the major players refusing to give information on how many consoles have been sold. It now seems clear why.
In Japan just 4,300 consoles were sold last week while Sony's PS2 racked up 100,000 sales and Nintendo's Gamecube, due to hit Europe next month, sold a very respectable 25,000.
Here in Europe the situation isn't much better, according to research firm Market for Computer Videogames. Germany and France each sold a pathetic 10,000 units in the first three days after launch. It seems we Brits are propping up the box, with a far more respectable 48,000 consoles sold.
"We are very pleased with the success of the Xbox in Europe to date," said Sandy Duncan, vice president for Xbox Europe, one week after its launch.
It seems this may not be all fluff – because despite soft running Microsoft has the money to wait out a slow launch.
Microsoft's Xbox is manufactured for the European market by technology manufacturer Flextronics, based in Hungary. The facility is in operation 24 hours a day, five days a week and has the ability to produce around two consoles a minute, equivalent to 15,000 units a day.
Based on this we can only assume that Microsoft is confident it can flog the units Flextronics is knocking out. Of course, this could mean a rather large stockpile of unsold units.
This is not a great time to launch a console, with the IT industry suffering on all levels and it was always going to be a tough battle for Microsoft – these are early days.
In the US though, sales figures are high with 1.5 million consoles having been sold since the Xbox's launch last November.
In the long term if Microsoft can sustain a high level of quality games then sales figures may pick up, but the Gamecube's launch next month will offer Microsoft a new European challenge.
Sony's PS2 was launched in the UK in November 2000, and Sony has thus far sold around £1.8m worth of the consoles in the UK to date.