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Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Microsoft announces Xbox 360 pricing


There will be two versions of the console at launch. An entry level and a premium edition.

Microsoft has announced the holiday pricing for the Xbox today at the Game Convention event in Leipzig, and it largely fits what we've come to expect since the Wal-Mart leak: an entry level price of US$299.99 (?299.99/209.99). However, there will be two versions of the console at launch. The entry level $299 box, dubbed the Xbox 360 Core System, will include a wired controller and the console itself?quite Spartan. For $399.99 (?399.99/279.99), you get "hundreds of dollars worth of accessories" with the premium edition, simply named "Xbox 360."

The goods: 20GB hard drive (estimated retail price $99.99 U.S./?99.99/69.99) One wireless controller (estimated retail price $49.99 U.S./?44.99/32.99) a headset appropriate for Xbox live (estimated retail price $19.99 U.S./?19.99/14.99) A special "chill" white faceplate (faceplates priced at $19.99 U.S./?19.99/14.99) Signature metallic detailing on the console Xbox 360 Component HD-AV Cable (estimated retail price $39.99 U.S./?29.99/19.99) Ethernet cable Wireless media remote control (for a limited time, estimated retail price $29.99 U.S./?29.99/19.99)

Additional accessories available for both Xbox 360 editions include:
- Xbox 360 64 MB Memory Unit (estimated retail price $39.99 U.S./?34.99/22.99)
- Xbox 360 rechargeable battery pack (for the wireless controller, estimated retail price $11.99 U.S./?14.99/9.99)
- Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adapter (estimated retail price $99.99 U.S./?79.99 /59.99)
- Xbox 360 S-Video AV Cable (U.S. only) Xbox 360 SCART AV Cable (Europe only), estimated retail price $29.99 U.S./?24.99/17.99

It looks like the premium package is the way to go if you're needing HD cables, which otherwise will run you $40. The hard drive and the wireless controller are a nice bonus, too. However, I'm still confused: the Xbox 360 Core System doesn't appear to have any storage. How can you save games? Presumably the Core System has some form of internal flash memory not mentioned in this release.

The announcement ends the speculation as to whether or not Microsoft would dare release a console without a hard drive. Xbox honcho J. Allard had recently told Game Informer (print magazine) that Microsoft has advised game developers to look at a hard drive as an option, and not a fundamental feature.

"We've said, 'Hey look, don't bank on the hard drive always being there. There may be a scenario in the future where we don't want to have a hard drive, and in that case, we have to make sure that the games that you've created are accessible to the broadest possible audience."

It is surprising to see both the hard drive and the wireless controller only included in a premium package, since E3 led most people to believe that these were standard features. Microsoft either can't afford to include a hard drive in the $299 version, or the company is planning on earning a little extra scratch on each unit by charging $100 more for a "premium" package. As to which scenario is true, it's open season for speculation. It is worth noting that a wireless controller for the existing Xbox is only $40 (from Logitech), while a 20GB hard drive weighs in around ~$30. I suppose this makes Microsoft's decision to lock-down third party accessories a little more understandable from a strategic point of view.

Perhaps more importantly, the hard drive option will have important ramifications for the lifespan of the console. Many gamers fear that making the hard drive an option will essentially translate to game developers not using the hard drive, eliminating much of its purpose. Also, while Microsoft has said nothing regarding this particular matter, the debate over backwards compatibility so far has centered on the hard drive. A look at this shopping site indicates clearly that the Core System will not have backwards compatibility. A hard drive will be required in order to optimize the performance of games that were designed for the original Xbox, which has a different CPU and GPU architecture (namely, Intel x86 and NVIDIA).

The decision not to make a hard drive standard is going to cause quite a bit consternation. Just visit the discussion thread, and you'll see. Also, take a look at what's missing: HD optical. It looks as though the initial launch will in fact not support an HD optical format.

No firm date for a launch was announced, although the company said that it will launch in North America, Japan, and Europe simultaneously.



Source: [ArsTechnica]


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