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Byline: Dean Takahashi
SAN JOSE, Calif. _ As Microsoft prepared to launch its Xbox 360 video game console, the company doubled down on its bets that video games will become an ever larger part of consumers' lives and that it can move beyond hard-core gamers to claim a big share of Sony's mainstream customers.
On Tuesday, after four years of planning and billions of dollars at risk, the Xbox 360 went on sale in North America, the first leg of its worldwide debut. Industry veterans predict that demand from the most avid game enthusiasts alone will be enough to make the console a top seller this holiday season. But they don't know how Microsoft will succeed with the broader group of consumers, dubbed casual gamers, who may prefer the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Nintendo Revolution coming next year.
"The wild card is whether consumers are really going to come out in the holidays for the Xbox 360 or just wait for Sony next year," said David Cole, analyst for market researcher DFC Intelligence in San Diego.
The Xbox 360 has graphics that are better than anything on store shelves today, with more lifelike games designed to be viewed on high-definition TVs. It is a digital entertainment and communications system that consumers can …