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Australian Xbox and PS2 price cuts

Gaming antipodeans celebrate.

Microsoft and Sony have cut their console prices down under within hours of one another, AustralianIT reports. As has become the norm, when one firm crowed about cutting the tag from AUS$399 (€220 / £160) to AUS$329 (€180 / £130) - equivalent to recent cuts in Europe and the United States - the other responded in kind, levelling the playing field once more and giving consumers yet more incentive to part with their dollars.

However Sony will be more rattled than Microsoft by the latest shake-up if recent trends are anything to go by. According to market analyst firm Inform, the Xbox is making significant gains in Australia. At one stage in mid-February, PS2 hardware outsold Xbox 3:1, but these days it's more like 1.5:1, whilst Microsoft's share of the Aussie software market has risen from 15 to 20 per cent compared to a decline from 49 to 43 per cent on Sony's side of the game.

Online gaming could become a key component later in the year, with Xbox Live trials commencing in June for an October launch, and Sony's trials already underway. Both firms have indicated that they plan to launch the service within the year, and with broadband subscription figures well and truly on the up in Australia - having jumped 150 per cent between April 2002 and April 2003 to more than a million, according to Internet usage monitor Nielsen//NetRataings - coming second could prove costly during the festive season.