With official word of the oncoming price drop of 360 consoles come this Wednesday, it has come to my attention that Microsoft will now feature no less than four distinct SKUs, staggered at price points that defy any attempts at rationalizatinon. Some would call this an embarrassment of riches. Other people, who are not slavering Xbox 360 fanboys, would call it goddamned retarded. In any case, it’s all very confusing, so I, humble servant to the gaming community that I am, will provide the public a breakdown of each SKU, along with the associated pros and cons.
Xbox 360 Core
- Removes money from bank account that may otherwise have accidentally found it’s way to the Church of Scientology
- Memory card (not included) will one day be shown to your children as a curiosity, much like Sony Betamax videotapes, or Sony PSP videogames.
- No memory card
- No hard disc drive
- Wired controller
- Fumes emanating from back of unit known to cause cancer in lab rats
- Will make your children cry should you purchase it for them
- Will make you wonder why you didn’t spend the money on a Wii
- Instills gnawing feeling of doom as you realize you need to spend an extra hundred dollars on a hard disc drive to get anything done with the stupid thing
- Really, what the hell are you thinking?
- Just give me your money, I’ll buy you a nice coat instead. Or maybe one of those official Lord of the Rings Swords.
In one of the more baffling maneuvers Microsoft’s pulled off thus far in the console wars, they’ve managed to release a 360 at a price point that not only is still not competitive with the Wii, but in neglecting to include a savegame card, they’ve managed to produce the only next-gen console on the market today that lacks any form whatsoever of standard game storage or wireless controls. Feature-wise, it is actually a step backwards from the original Xbox, where at least you never had to worry about buying a memory card.
Xbox 360 Pro (nee Premium)
- Actually comes with a goddamned hard drive
- You can play games with this one
- Not to mention download stuff
- Doesn’t lead to a long, awkward pause as you try to justify to your friends why you bought a 360 Core
- Free headset!
- Swank dual use composite/component AV input cords
- As with all 360 units, superheated air emanating from the rear of the unit may be used to power a small hydroponic garden
- Comes with a free copy of Rockstar’s Table Tennis
- Comes with a free copy of Rockstar’s Table Tennis
- 20gb hard drive instead of the Elite’s 120gb
- No HDMI video input
- As with all 360 units, will eventually melt into a puddle of semisolid plastic and silicone, possibly lighting house and/or small pets on fire
For the most part, the Pro remains the best value of the lot, despite it’s rather tiny hdd drive. Still, 20 gigs is more than large enough if you intend to do nothing more than save games, XBLA downloads and game demos. The choice of free game here seems odd to me– Yeah, there’s a market for Table Tennis, and people other than me seem to think it’s a good game and all, but I have to wonder why they decided to lowball the pack-in here and not include something really enticing, like a Kameo/Perfect Dark Zero double pack. The XB1 Sega GT 2000/Jet Set Radio Future pack was what finally convinced me to buy the first Xbox, and I can’t help but imagine two quality, hyped release titles that have more than served their useful purpose would be a better fit here than an overly complicated Pong update that’s more at home on the Wii anyway.
Xbox 360 Halo 3 Edition
- Features an HDMI a/v port not found on the Core or Pro
- Comes with a free controller recharge kit
- Looks… different
- Seriously, we’re talking pea soup and copper here
- Despite being labeled the “Halo 3 edition” and being plastered in Halo imagery, comes with no actual Halo games.
- Still has the 20gb hard drive
- Space beetles, attracted by it’s color and prodigious heat output, may attempt to mate with your system, ruining your Dead Rising save file
- Will cause one to yearn for the simple dignity of previous game-specific special edition consoles, such as the Pokemon Yellow N64.
I… dunno. I mean, I guess if you’re a big Halo guy and you don’t yet own a 360, this may be tempting, but I can’t help but imagine that in addition to Table Tennis, you can actually buy a full-fledged 360 game using the price difference between this and the Pro. Even if this shipped with nothing more than a double disc of the previous Halo games and their respective map packs I could understand the need for this thing to exist, but as it stands it’s main advantage over every other non-Core 360 is that it’s garish.
Xbox 360 Elite
- It’s black!
- 120gb hard drive vs the 20 gig drive found in the Pro and Halo 2 units
- You’re paying four hundred and fifty dollars for a system that you’re still expected to buy a separate wireless adapter for
- No free game
- Not even the controller recharge kit found on the Halo 3 system
- Upon learning that you purchased a 360 Elite, an annoyed, sweat-drenched beer truck driver will invade your home, inform you you’ve lost your right to sell Miller High Life and remove all cheap, flavorless beer from the premises. Ordinarily I’d list this as a “Pro”, but the hand trucks will make an utter ruin of your linoleum floor.
Unless you find yourself greatly enamored with the color black and/or find yourself tempted by the thoughts of downloading TV shows off of Live Marketplace and thus need that extra hard drive space, I really can’t see much reason to buy the 360 Elite, even with the price drop. Not many 360 games will make use of the extra resolution brought forth by the built-in HDMI port. This thing only ever really existed to take advantage of the three month gap that the market was without a $500 PS3 option, and now that Sony’s resumed the $500 SKU, it’s hard to find a reason to justify this thing’s existence.
Overall, this price juggling is typical Microsoft– confusing, slightly disappointing, likely ultimately meaningless once all is said and done. If Microsoft was going to keep the Core around, it needed to be dropped to $250 with a memory card– that could have provided Microsoft with a real weapon against the Wii. The 20gb hdd shouldn’t even exist anymore, and the $120gb hdd should take it’s place. The Pro sports an incredibly weak pack-in game– SKUs should at least feature Perfect Dark and/or Kameo at this point– Or any of the other multitude of Xbox 360 launch titles that have long since served their useful purpose. The “advantages” of the Halo 3 SKU amounts to a fifty dollar sticker set; the Elite should, at the very least, include a bundled HD-DVD drive, and there’s no logical reason for all the SKUs not to include wireless controllers and wireless internet adapters.
Of course, any need for any of this juggling exists the moment Microsoft comes to it’s senses and simply releases a 360 w/hard drive at $300, with maybe a stripped down, no-frills Core at $200. This is the only way Microsoft will ever start to catch up with sales of even the original Xbox, not to mention the juggernaut that the Wii is starting to become. Microsoft came out of E3 with the best hype and the best games on the market, and could have parlayed this price drop into some actual momentum– and in typical fashion, they half-assed everything and made the whole affair an even bigger mess.