Sony victory in consoles battle

NIGEL COPE and MATHEW HORSMAN

Sony is claiming victory over its arch-rival Sega in the Christmas computer games battle, as speculation grows that Nintendo is unlikely to launch its new console in Europe until 1997.

Nintendo has already delayed the launch of its Ultra 64 system several times and another delay would put it even further behind in the cut-throat electronic games market which is worth pounds 2bn worldwide.

Nintendo refused to confirm the setback yesterday, saying: "As far as we are concerned in the UK, the machine is still planned for a 1996 launch." The company's UK distributor, Total Home Entertainment, says it expects the new console to be launched in September.

In the key Christmas period, the Sony PlayStation appears to have won the battle of the consoles with the Sega Saturn. The PlayStation sold 35,000 units in December while Sega racked up sales of 25,000 , according to figures supplied by the two companies. Since the new-generation game systems were launched last year, Sony claims sales of 135,000 while Sega puts its total at 80,000.

Jeremy Crisp, of Sega's marketing department, said: "We are delighted with the figures, and the early indications for January are also excellent."

He added that the Saturn managed to generate its sales by spending far less than Sony on TV and other advertising. Sony has set aside a budget of pounds 20m for its PlayStation campaign. Both companies say that new-generation 32-bit systems have already generated strong sales of software games, with Sony saying it was selling four games for every console. January is traditionally a strong month for software sales, as consumers buy titles to go with consoles they received as Christmas gifts.

Sony says its best selling games are Tekken, Ridge Racer and Fifa '96, with Mortal Kombat also selling well. It also expects strong sales for Total NBA, a new basketball game to be launched in the Spring.

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