With its newest games console already on sale in Japan and the US, Nintendo is turning its attention to the European games market and plans to launch its Gamecube console there on May 3, the company announced Monday. The company is readying 500,000 consoles to ship to European stores in time for the launch and says it expects the console will sell for around €250 (around £160), it said in a statement. The company said the console's launch will be accompanied by "Luigi's Mansion," "Wave Race" and 20 other software titles from third-party developers. Nintendo's "Super Smash Brothers: Melee" will follow on May 24 and "Pikmin" on June 14. By the summer, Nintendo expects around 50 software titles to be available, it said. The Gamecube contains a PowerPC-based "Gekko" processor from IBM, a graphics chip custom designed by ATI Technologies Inc. and with 40MB of main memory. Game software is supplied on proprietary 8-centimeter optical discs with a 1.5GB capacity designed by Matsushita. For European gamers, however, the next big date on the calendar is March 14. That is when Microsoft plans to launch the Xbox console in 16 markets across the continent. The console will also go on sale in Japan on February 22, but for now is only available in the US where, according to Sony, it sold 1.5 million units over a one-month period from November 18. In contrast, Nintendo's launch target was for shipments of 1.3 million between Nov. 17 and the end of the year, while Microsoft was aiming at shipments of 1.4 million for the Xbox during that period. The PlayStation 2 holds an advantage over the competition: its longer history means many more software titles are available - an important advantage in a sector where software rather than hardware is the deciding factor in the minds of many consumers. With the Gamecube's debut in Europe, a three-way battle between Nintendo, current market leader Sony and newcomer Microsoft will be taking place in the world's three-largest gaming markets: Europe, the US and Japan. The worldwide games market is worth billions of dollars per year, with rich rewards for companies that are successful and heavy losses for those that aren't. Strong sales of the PlayStation 2 led Sony to report its best quarterly group sales ever on Friday, when it announced results for the final three months of 2001. However, at the other end of the scale, Sega was forced to pull out of the hardware business a year ago after it racked up large losses selling its Dreamcast console.