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MS forecasts 360 sales

10m by the time PS3 launches.

Bill Gates has stated that the company expects to have a 10 million unit head start by the time any other next generation console reaches market, giving him about seven months to shift over six million consoles.

The rather bold forecast was an extension of the current sales figures and mid-year targets announced by Peter Moore at the start of the pre-E3 conference, who said that the initial Xbox 360 sales were better than those of "other consoles" and described the console as a cultural phenomenon.

Recent figures suggesting the company has shifted 3.3 million units to date would appear to confirm that things are on track for the company's mid-year target of selling 5 milion consoles, although it has yet to be confirmed whether that 3.3 million relates to shipment figures or actual sales.

Even so, that still leaves 1.7 million consoles to be sold in little over a month, and a further 5 million by the time the PS3 launches in November, which is an ambitious goal and an impressive feat if they can pull it off.

Microsoft remains confident though, and continued to shower praise on the current success of the console, which has held the market lead in next generation console hardware for almost eight months, Peter Moore describing the online Xbox Live services as "a gateway to new worlds of high definition content."

"In the next year, Xbox Live will surpass 6 million users," Moore stated, adding that the system has gone beyond early adopters and achieved a 57 per cent attach rate by the end of last week.

Paying special tribute to the Xbox Live Arcade service, which "strikes at the very core of what makes gaming fun," a demonstration reel of new content was played that included multiple new releases from over a hundred third party partnerships Microsoft has put in place. Let's hope they start putting things live with a bit more regularity from now on then.

Pushing beyond games, Microsoft talked about its partnership with Warner Music Group and additional movie and entertainment partnerships, confidently stating that "other consoles don't even come close."

The success of the Xbox 360, given the highly publicised issues surrounding the launch, is certainly something to be proud of. But this year's E3 is all about the introduction of competition from Sony and Nintendo, both of which offer similar (and in some cases bolder) promises for next generation gaming and online entertainment. Whether or not Microsoft can maintain its lead and reach that ambitious 10 million target by November remains to be seen.

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Paul Loughrey