January 16, 2003 9:52 AM PST

PlayStation 2 shipments top 50 million

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Sony announced Thursday that worldwide shipments of its PlayStation 2 video game console have surpassed 50 million units, broadening the electronics giant's lead over rivals Microsoft and Nintendo.

Sony said that since the console was introduced in Japan in March 2000, it has shipped 21.5 million units to North America, 16 million to Europe and 12.5 million in Japan.

Nintendo has projected that worldwide sales of its GameCube console will hit 16 million by March 30, the end of its current fiscal year. Microsoft projects sales of 9 million to 11 million Xbox consoles by the end of its current fiscal year on June 30. Both rival consoles arrived on the market a full year after PlayStation 2.

Sony said PS2 sales have steadily accelerated. Thanks to a successful holiday shopping season, it took the company only three months to ship another 10 million units, after hitting the 40 million mark last October and 30 million in May.

Meanwhile, Microsoft on Thursday launched its Xbox Live service in Japan. The company began selling a $58 Xbox Live starter kit that includes several games, a voice communicator and a one-year subscription to the service, which allows Xbox gamers to compete against each other via a high-speed Internet connection.

Microsoft is betting on Xbox Live to distinguish its game console. The service had an unexpectedly strong launch in North America, but Japan has been by far the weakest territory for the Xbox. The latest rankings from Japanese researcher Dengeki show cumulative Xbox sales of only 312,000 units and only one Xbox title among the 40 top-selling games in Japan.

 

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