(AKA an article to prove I’m not a total Xbox fanboy)
Last week Microsoft officially announced the upgraded Xbox 360 “Elite”. This is basically a souped up 360 with the following stuff added:
- HDMI video output
- 20 gig hard drive
- The color black
All for the bargain price of $479. It does include an HDMI cable which is pretty nice – I am sick of people saying “you can buy one online for $15!” True, but for all the schmucks who get one in the store it’s at least $75. I could buy screws for 1/10th the price off McMaster Carr, but 9 times out of 10 I just go down to Ace. That said, it doesn’t include:
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- 65 nm process chips
One less bullet point, but a big deal. In this article that I’m writing to sluff out of doing other things on a Saturday morning, I’ll postulate on why I feel Microsoft is making a mistake with the Elite / pricing and what it could mean to the PS3 and Wii.
My podcast co-host Jason Jones is always asking me “Ben when are you getting a 360??” And I keep telling him “This fall, when it gets cold again, the new Xbox 360 is available and GTA comes out!” Now that I’ve seen the Elite 360’s specs, I’m not so sure. Here are my reasons, which can probably be echoed by many gamers:
- I want Wi–Fi: In my place, I’d have to run 100 feet of cable at LEAST to get Ethernet to the living room. Screw that! Then again, 100 feet of cable would probably be cheaper than $99 for the Xbox 360’s proprietary Wi-Fi adapter. (Cheaper, but uglier) The cheapest I’ve ever seen it is $65 used. Granted the $500 PS3 doesn’t have Wi-Fi but for crying out loud the Wii, PSP and even the DS does! No built-in Wi-Fi on any 360 is nothing other than inexcusable.
- Considering that with Wi–Fi an Elite 360 costs $580, why not spend $20 more and have a Blu-Ray player?: At this point the only real difference is the free HDMI cable. Which apparently I can get off the internet for $20 🙂 I don’t really see myself filling up 60 gigs even, and that’s a lot better than a paltry 20.
- You can put any hard drive you wish in the PS3: For all the ragging on the PS3 people never credit it as the open system it is. You can put in any 2.5″ SATA drive you wish, plug in regular USB headsets, hell, even install Linux. The 360 has been locked down with pricey peripherals, in an attempt to finally bring the Xbox division into profit. Once you get past the initial sticker shock, the PS3 is actually cheaper to accessorize.
Now a person might say “But the PS3 is losing all its exclusives!” True, but that doesn’t mean they’re not going to be on the system! Sure, if the 360 dominates they’ll stop making PS3 versions, similar to what happened with the Gamecube, but for now all the top games are on both systems. As for 360 exclusives, none have really blown my skirt up yet. I will say with no regret I liked Resistance: Fall of Man better than Gears of War. The 360 game I’d really like (but will never have time to fully play) is Oblivion, but of course that’s also on PC and PS3.
Alright so I’ve established why the Elite is too pricey. I also think it’s a mistake to have not 1, not 2, but THREE SKU’s (store keeping units, in case you ever wondered what that stood for) of the 360. Talk about confusing. Now let’s look at some ways Microsoft could have really gone for the jugular:
- Drop the Core and make the Premium $300 to kill the Wii: For starters I don’t think $400 is too expensive for a console. They’ve been $300 since 1995, so going to $400 is in line with standard inflation, or maybe slightly more. Better than gas, house prices or healthcare though! Same agrument for $60 games. That said, if the Premium was only $50 more than the heavily hyped but hopelessly dated Wii they could really take a chunk out of that market. The “For a Few Dollars More” argument, if you will. As is you need a memory card to make the Core do anything, so it’s only $50 cheaper than the Premium anyway. Look at Sony, they’re probably gonna drop the 20 gig model. Microsoft should do the same.
- Lose money for a little bit longer to gain in the long run: Microsoft has tons of cash laying aroung but they still have to answer to shareholders. Only now, 6 years later, is the Xbox division starting to make money. And there’s the rub – they could drop prices to really kill the PS3, but now that they’re finally making money on the system that’s probably easier said than done. The PS3 is stupidly expensive, but if the 360 doesn’t have some sort of price drop by this fall that’s just as stupid.
- Make the Elite the Premium, put in Wi-Fi for pity’s sake and price it at $400: This goes along with the 2 points above. They’d have all the features (sans Blu-Ray) of the PS3 yet for at least $100 less. A no-brainer. MS has the lead for now, but when some atom bombs called Final Fantasy and Gran Turismo come out for the PS3 things could swing wildly. Gears of War has done well, but FF and GT are both 10+ million sellers (read: way more than any 360 title has yet sold) and still PS3 exclusives. They cannot be underestimated.
- Buy Nintendo: This is about as likely as MS buying Take Two and making GTA 4 a 360 exclusive (the wheels are already in motion for it to be on the PS3) but still, wouldn’t it be funny? I’ve always thought that if Nintendo wanted to make INSANE amounts of money all they need do is make Mario/Zelda for other consoles. Let’s face it, Nintendo consoles for the last 10 years have just been Zelda adapters. (With the occasional Goldeneye thrown in)
Well that’s about it! We’ll see what happens this coming holiday season, but if you ask me Microsoft is missing an opportunity to kill off the Playstation. I mean, why not “just go for it”?