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(Aug. 31, 2001) -- The games, or rather video games, are ready to roll. At least two national retail chains will kick off pre-sell programs Sept. 1 for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox video-game console.

Babbages and Electronics Boutique will invite gamers to sign up on their Web sites to purchase an Xbox, instead of waiting until Nov. 8 when it goes on sale in stores.

Babbages' site offers consumers several different product and software bundles to choose from, ranging from a $599 package, including the console, three game titles and peripherals, to a $1,199 bundle that comes with the console, peripherals and 14 titles.

The console, by itself, is $299, comparable to Sony Computer Entertainment America's PlayStation 2 machine. Xbox software titles are expected to be around $40 to $50 apiece.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said it plans to make 600,000 to 800,000 units available on launch day and ship 1.5 million units by year's end. -- Tobi Elkin

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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