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Australian Xbox enthusiasts have been pushed right to the back of the Xbox 360 queue with news that they are being forced to wait untill at least March the 2nd 2006 to get their hands on the new console.The PS3 will launch in September 2006.

Australian Xbox enthusiasts have been pushed right to the back of the Xbox 360 queue with news that they are being forced to wait untill at least March the 2nd 2006 to get their hands on the new console.This is some 41/2 months after the US and European launches.  US gamers will be able to get their hands on the 360 from today with Microsoft deliberatly spruiking limited availability to US gamers. The Xbox Core bundle which sells in the USA for US$299  will cost A$499.95 and Xbox 360 bundles which sell in the USA for US$399 will sell in Australia for A$649.

Xbox Regional Director David McLean claims that the Australian Xbox 360 will launch with more than 30 games locally, as opposed to 20 titles for the US. Microsoft are also claiming that the delay will also result in greater backwards compatibility with current Xbox. McClean told CNet “When we launch on 2 March, it will be the biggest videogame launch in Australian history, bar none. We’ll sell more units and generate more revenue than any other videogame console launched in Australia and NZ.”

Meanwhile Sony CEO Howard Stringer has given the clearest indication yet of the company’s launch plans for PlayStation 3, stating that the next-gen system will enter the market at between $300 and $400 when it arrives in mid-2006. The Australian launch of the PS3 is not expected untill September 2006 a move which put pressure on the Xbox 360 launch.

Speaking with FORTUNE magazine, Stringer confirmed that the PS3 will initially be sold at a significant loss in order to drive the Blu-Ray next-generation DVD standard out into the marketplace.His comments also confirm speculation that Sony will be subsidising the Blu-Ray hardware for PS3, and should quell fears that the console would enter the market at a very high price point due to the cost of the Blu-Ray drives.

The FORTUNE piece cites mid-2006 as the launch window for PS3 in Japan, with US launch to follow a few months later, but it’s not clear whether this is speculation on the part of the magazine, as those dates are not directly attributed to Stringer. Another element which does directly cite the British-born Sony boss, however, is regarding the media bundle which will ship with the PS3 – with Stringer stating that the console will come with a bundle of games, movies and TV shows.

This move is presumably designed to showcase the advantages of the Blu-Ray format, on which Sony is pinning much of its hope for the next few years – and, indeed, for the next-gen console war, where the use of Blu-Ray gives the PS3 arguably its most significant hardware advantage over the Xbox 360, which uses standard DVD discs.

Some speculation has emerged over whether the content Stringer refers to might ship on a built-in hard drive on the PS3, but the firm has already stated that the console won’t ship with an internal hard drive – instead offering users the option of adding one using a 2.5″ hard drive bay on the back of the machine.

Stringer’s comments come, of course, as Microsoft’s Xbox 360 arrives in North America, timing which is undoubtedly entirely deliberate on Sony’s part. Microsoft officially backs the HD-DVD standard which competes directly with the Blu-Ray standard, but has not opted to include it in Xbox 360 – however, it has hinted that it may release an updated version of the console with the ability to play back HD-DVD media discs at some point in future.

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