Microsoft sees Xbox 360 sales growth in '08

(Adds quotes, details)

REDMOND, Washington, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp MSFT.O expects to sell more Xbox 360 consoles in 2008 than in 2007, with Europe standing out as a key battleground for dominance in the $30 billion video game industry.

In Japan, where the Xbox 360 has far lagged Nintendo Co Ltd's 7974.OS Wii and Sony Corp's 6758.T PlayStation 3, Microsoft said recent and upcoming games from popular Japanese designers should boost sales.

“We will sell more consoles next year than this year,” Jeff Bell, head of global marketing for Microsoft’s games business, told Reuters in an interview.

“We don’t want to trade places with anybody,” Bell said.

He said that the Xbox 360 was strong in Britain and was gaining market share in France and Germany, but that Sony had also been lifted in Europe by a recent price cut for the PS3.

“Europe for us is still the swing,” Bell said. “The biggest challenge is that Sony as a brand has had greater staying power than in other areas. Not just PlayStation 3, but Sony as a brand,” Bell said.

Microsoft had seen some retailers sell out of the high-end Elite model of the console as well as of the lower-priced Arcade version.

Asked if Microsoft was benefiting from Nintendo’s ongoing shortage of Wii machines, Bell said: “Sometimes you’re good, sometimes you’re lucky, and it’s wonderful when you’re both.”

Bell also took a dig at Nintendo, playing on an industry perception that independent video game publishers have not enjoyed great success on the Wii so far, in part because Nintendo’s own offerings are so strong.

“Clearly, we have a competitor where they win and no one else wins. That is not sustainable, it’s never been sustainable,” Bell said.

Nintendo’s U.S. president, Reggie Fils-Aime, told Reuters earlier this week that perception was misguided, and he pointed to recent market data showing that 60 percent of Wii game sales in November came from outside publishers.

(Editing by Gary Hill)

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