Microsoft announced today that when the Xbox 360 launches this fall it’ll be available in two differently priced versions. The first, priced at $299, will have the main unit and one wired Xbox controller you’ll have to plug into the Xbox to use. The second $399 version will come with a detachable 20GB hard drive, a wireless controller, a headset, component cables, and a remote control, though that last feature may be a limited time offer.
“If you look at the processing power that’s available in the Xbox 360, you’ll see it is more powerful than what you can get at the PC level today for a reasonable price,” said Mitch Koch, vice president of retail sales for Microsoft’s games division.
While both versions of the Xbox 360 will be available simultaneously, Microsoft plans to have more of the $400 version on shelves, which could confound some of Santa’s helpers as Christmas draws near.
The company would not say how many of each version it would have available. Nor did it further clarify its worldwide launch date for the system beyond “Holiday 2005”. (Most observers expect it to be released in November.)
Microsoft also announced the price points for over a dozen Xbox 360 accessories, including stand-alone wireless controllers ($50), detachable 20 GB hard drives ($100), headsets ($20) and Xbox 360 faceplates ($20), which allow users to customize their machine.
This explains why Microsoft recently told developers that they can’t count on every Xbox 360 having a hard drive like they could with the previous version. It’ll be interesting to see how well the hard drive does now that it’s an optional part of the system, though anyone looking to play old Xbox games on the Xbox 360 will pretty much have to buy a hard drive because so many of them take advantage of it. If a lot of folks decide to save $100 by going with the cheaper console then developers may end up dropping support for the hard drive altogether. On the plus side, Microsoft also said they expect game prices to stay right about where they are now.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Sony responds to this announcement with the pricing for the PS3. Sony has been repeatedly stating that the PS3 will be “expensive” which has many folks expecting it to cost well over the traditional $299 price point of the past, but will they take a similar route to Microsoft and offer multiple versions at different price points? We should know soon enough.