Console War, UK Style

Whilst you lot were chomping on your Thanksgiving turkey in America, a war was raging in the UK. The gloves are off and the battle for second place has begun. The console war has just taken a turn for the bloodier.

Christmas is looming and the kids and young at heart are getting their best stationary out to write that all important letter to Santa. Sony is currently the console equivalent of the Christmas fairy, sitting pretty at the top of the tree. Meanwhile, a cut-throat tussle for Sony's scraps has ensued at the bottom of the tree and it ain't pretty.

Earlier in the year, you'd have been forgiven for thinking the battle of the consoles had become a two horse race. Nintendo's GameCube was floundering. Major UK retailer, Argos said it had stopped stocking the Cube altogether in a shock announcement. Confidence levels at Nintendo must have hit an all time low. The harbingers of doom were out in force and things looked bleak for the diminutive console.

Microsoft had a little comfort zone as it inched ahead of Ninty. And as if things weren't bad enough, the Japanese stalwart then proceeded to reduce the price of its console to ?79. Now the GBA SP was it's most expensive machine. Surely this would undermine consumer confidence in the quality of the Cube.

Forecasters predicted the beginning of the end for the GameCube. And the words ‘another Sega' were bandied about willy nilly.

Well, in the last couple of weeks, Nintendo has upped the ante. Microsoft's Christmas is on the rocks, unless they have something very big up their sleeves. The Nintendo price drop decision has paid off in bucket loads. Mario Kart bundles resulted in a 35 percent sales increases in the UK, pushing the GameCube ahead of its Microsoft rival.

Buoyed by this success, Nintendo have announced a new bundle. All standalone Cubes will be accompanied by the Zelda Collector's Edition bonus disc for free in Europe. This highly sought after disc is also available with the Mario Kart bundle. For those of you not aware of the value of said disc, it includes 2 NES Zelda games (Legend of Zelda and Link's Adventure) and two N64 games (Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask), plus a demo of Wind Waker – now you can't say fairer than that. And with the Cube on sale for mere pocket money, this new strategy is bound to boost those essential Christmas sales.

Back at camp Xbox things aren't looking quite so jolly. Sales have been disappointing despite generous bundles. The sad fact remains that Microsoft has a distinct lack of must have titles. The main contender has to be the Halo and Midtown Madness 3 bundle, which comes complete with an Xbox Live voucher for two months free and all for a neat ?139.99.

Live is Microsoft's trump card, but is it enough to shift units and steal Nintendo's Christmas thunder? Project Gotham Racing 2 and Rainbow Six 3 are both big Live contenders, but I think they'll both miss the lucrative children's market. These titles are for the more mature player. And are they enough to make people fork out the extra money for an Xbox, when they could get Star Wars Rogue Squadron III and some change from ?100? I'm not convinced.

Xbox also had a lot riding on Grabbed by the Ghoulies, which has had a less than enthusiastic response from the press. This could have been Microsoft's ticket to the family Christmas party, but yet again they've missed the boat.

No, there's only one thing that could save the Xbox this Christmas and that's Halo 2. Please God let Microsoft be keeping the best kept secret in the world ever – the surprise release of one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the civilised world. The rumour mills are out of control and word on the street is Microsoft's still got one more card to play.

Although it would be great and one of the best Christmas coups ever known, I'm not confident that it will come to fruition. Oh, if only I woke up on Christmas morning to a Halo 2 shaped stocking hanging from the mantelpiece. But alas, I'm keeping my hopes well and truly in check to avoid bitter disappointment.

Come on Microsoft, give us a battle because at the moment GameCube is stealing your Christmas right from under you. And here's a little salt for the wound – PS2 remains way ahead with a sales rise of a fifth, taking the grand total sold to over 65,000.

Oh and then there's little old GBA SP, which is officially in second place with 30,000 units currently nestling in clammy hands. So who could blame Microsoft on what appears to be their surrender of third place in the console war.

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