Shortages of Xbox 360 consoles in the US and Europe aren't expected to be resolved anytime soon, a Microsoft executive said Saturday after the company launched the console in Japan.

"Eventually we will catch up, who knows when that will be. Demand is just stunning, overwhelming," said Peter Moore, marketing and publishing corporate vice president of Microsoft's home and entertainment division, in an interview.

When Microsoft launched the console on November 22 in North America long queues of people formed outside many retailers.

"We knew we had one of the hottest products for the holidays on our hands but even I was stunned by reports the next morning of fights breaking out and guns being drawn," said Moore.

As a result the Xbox 360 has become one of the hottest products on the eBay online auction site.

"The hunt for the 360 seems to be a keen sport now. We are replenishing the channels every week and a lot of retailers, quite frankly, took more preorders than they had stock coming in and they are only now fulfilling those. So for the consumers in Europe and the US who think they can just walk up and buy one, I don't know when that is going to happen."

The consoles are currently being produced for Microsoft by two companies, Singapore's Flextronics International and Taiwan's Wistron. A third manufacturer, Canada's Celestica, will begin production in late January or early February, said Moore. All three companies will produce the Xbox 360 at their respective factories in China.

Among those inconvenienced by the shortage has been Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer. Ballmer said last week that his children had yet to get an Xbox 360 because he hadn't been able to buy one and Sarbanes-Oxley rules prevented him from getting a free console.

"He's right, he's a section 16 officer that operates under Sarbanes-Oxley," said Moore. "I can't give him one, even if I had one, because he can't accept it and I don't think he pre-ordered it from our local BestBuy, which he lives pretty close to, so Steve is [out of luck] right now."

"I'm sure the Ballmer boys aren't happy with that because he has to get in line at retail like everybody else," said Moore. "He can come to my house if he needs games to play."