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Xbox holds second place in Europe

Still well ahead of the Cube despite a tough fourth quarter.

New figures from Microsoft show that Xbox is still well ahead of Nintendo's GameCube in terms of European sales, with a 3.7 million unit installed base at the end of 2003 and Xbox Live shooting past 100,000 users.

That 3.7 million figure compares with the GameCube's installed base of just under 3 million units at the end of the year - although both look rather irrelevant when compared with the PS2's PAL installed base of well over 20 million units.

The Xbox is currently leading the GameCube by a margin of under a million units in both the USA and Europe (around 0.8 million in the US, and 0.7 million in Europe), but the tables are turned in the Far East, where GameCube makes up the difference and grabs a slight lead over its rival in global terms.

Microsoft claims to have achieved year-on-year growth in its market share in Europe during 2003, although the last quarter of the year was tougher for the company by all accounts, with Nintendo claiming to have taken second place in terms of market share in the crucial pre-Christmas period. Although we know that the Xbox did experience a six per cent climb in unit sales in the UK during 2003, no equivalent figures are available for Europe.

Beyond mere console sales, there's interesting reading in the other figures as well. The software attach rate for the system, a key indicator of its viability as a platform, is at a healthy 5.2 units per console - although it's thought that this encompasses bundled games (Microsoft was unable to confirm this at time of publication), which would make it altogether less impressive since few Xboxen are sold without at least two cut-price (or free) software titles in the box.

Xbox Live, meanwhile, reportedly surged ahead over the Christmas period, with over 100,000 European gamers now using the service - more than are using Sony's PS2 Online system, although the Xbox Live figure does include some customers who purchased games with free trial subscriptions such as Project Gotham Racing 2, and it's not yet known how many of those trials will be converted into paying subscriptions when the free period runs out.

Although the system had a relatively weak Christmas, 2004 promises big things for the Xbox - with massive titles such as Halo 2, Fable, Sudeki, Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive Ultimate and Full Spectrum Warrior all on the release schedule for the year.

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