Xbox Will Be a Week Late, but Will It Also Be a Little Short?

Mr. Softee isn't giving assurances of how many game boxes will be on hand by the Nov. 15 launch.
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Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

will delay the release of its Xbox video game console by one week, the company said.

The software giant, which is trying to diversify away from its main PC-based software business, said it will now have the game console ready Nov. 15 instead of Nov. 8.

In a news release, the company did not reaffirm that it would hit its target of 600,000 to 800,000 units available at launch. In recent days, analysts and industry observers have reportedly speculated that as few as 300,000 units will be ready when the console is released. Microsoft asserted that it will ship 1 million to 1.5 million units by the end of the year.

James Bernard, a Microsoft spokesman, said there were a "number of factors involved" in the decision to push the release date back, and said the later date was best "from a strategic standpoint" for it, its customers and partners. He would not say that the delay was due to the general business stoppage that gripped America after Sept. 11's terrorist attacks.

The delay and absence of reaffirmation about the number of units it will have at launch raises the possibility that Microsoft will be faced with product shortages during the crucial holiday season, though Bernard denied that will be the case. It's the same fate that befell

Sony

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last year when it launched its PlayStation 2 game console.

Bernard, however, said since the consoles are manufactured in Mexico, and not Japan, it will have the ability to quickly replenish store shelves with up to 100,000 units each week. He also said the company would have 15 to 20 games ready for Xbox at release, and more than 30 titles at the finish of the holiday season.

Microsoft

in July and again

in August denied that manufacturing glitches would cause the Xbox to be late in North America. It did announce last month that Xbox wouldn't be available

in Japan until later than expected.

While not willing to concede that the delay was caused by terrorism, Bernard did say the attacks have made Microsoft review the contents of its video games.

"We've been taking a look at a lot of different things within games to make sure the material is appropriate," Bernard said. "We feel the same way everyone does about the tragedy, and we're doing everything we can to be responsible as an entertainment company."

As Microsoft forges into its new realm as game maker, it will have to deal with those issues,

along with the rest of the video game industry .