in General, Tech

Xbox 360 – Taking my money elsewhere

Today Microsoft announced its price points and accessory list for the upcoming Xbox 360. I’m now almost certain I won’t be buying one. Here’s one of many stories on the announcement. “Major Nelson”, who heads up the Xbox Live program, has more details, but his site is getting hammered at the moment.

My current Xbox has given me many happy hours of gaming with friends and online. While I have no doubt that the 360 would do the same, in the end the pricing is just prohibitive for me.

In order to preserve some semblance of a low price point, Microsoft is going with two versions of the console: One at $399, and another at $299. Here’s what you get for the extra $100 that the cheaper version doesn’t include:

-Wireless controller instead of wired
-20GB hard drive
-Fancier A/V cable
-Remote Control for DVD playback
-Ethernet cable

In all, really not a bad package for just $100 more. While expensive, I could still see myself possibly paying $399. But the killer for me is the accessory prices.

$50 for an extra controller? $20 for a simple snap-on decorative faceplate? But the biggest problem is the pricing on the wireless adapter. Playing games online with the 360 over wireless will cost you an extra $100. Simply outrageous! I recently bought a wireless router AND a card for my laptop for $70.

And in the end, those without the hard drive will be hurt. I’ve seen unconfirmed statements from people who work at Microsoft that the drive will be required to play online. If true, they are in effect buying a system that is crippled just out of the box.

So let’s say I want to play a game with a friend online at launch day. Here’s what I’d have to spend:
System – $399
Extra controller – $50
Game – $50 (estimated)
Wireless adapter – $100

Total – $599

Simply out of my price range.

Plus, Microsoft has fractured the market. Are game developers going to make games that use every ability of the 360, when they know that some system owners will be unable to play the resulting product? No, they’ll code to the lowest common denominator.

Just a few hours ago, Microsoft almost certainly had my money in their pockets. Now I’m in the “wait and see” camp, and leaning towards not buying it at all.

I’d reserved $350 in my budget for the purchase of a new system this fall. The Playstation Portable is looking much more attractive this morning.

For consideration: This kind of pricing structure is also going to put a damper on the library gaming programs that have been gaining momentum lately.

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  1. I have heard that the prices of games for the Xbox 360 (and the PS3) will be closer to $70 than $50, due to the bigger budgets for game production. That may not be as much of a problem for the hardcore gamer (who tends to make commitments to certain games for longer periods of time) than for libraries who have Gaming (I capitalize it when it’s discussed in a more “academic” nature) or for the casual gamer, whose tastes may vary over short periods of time. Remember that when the PS2 came out, production for games on PS1 continued for a bit longer. For example, for a couple of years, EA Sports released versions of its most popular games for both systems.

  2. Oops… I also forgot a couple of things. The next-generation gaming console is more of a “killer app” – something that is supposed to be the all-in-one, end-all device that is the centerpiece of one’s digital entertainment. This is how the system will be marketed – not as a gaming system. Even the PSP is marketed this way. (The only thing the PSP isn’t is a cell phone.)

    Microsoft has a really good reason for wanting more money for the Xbox 360 – they purposely took a major loss on the Xbox by selling it below value to compete with the marketplace. Five years ago, the real eventual target was the Xbox 360, but Microsoft had to get its foot in the door first. Now they can sell the Xbox 360 at a much higher price, and still expect to rake in tons more money. They even snatched back more control over the hardware used with their systems.

    You ask the question: “Are game developers going to make games that use every ability of the 360, when they know that some system owners will be unable to play the resulting product?” The PC gaming market also deals with this issue. However, with that market, gamers tend to like only one or two particular types of games (or maybe even one or two series or titles), and the hardware they use matches the games they play.

    And more to your point about Gaming and libraries. What defines a game (or Game) that’s good for library use? Does it have to be multiplayer on a network? Does it have to simulate real life? Does it have to be educational (to some extent)?

  3. You raise some interesting questions and points.

    I agree that the next-gen systems are aiming to be the all-in-one type devices. To be honest, that potential is one of the big things attracting me to the systems. I would LOVE to be able to play the downloads of various video clips and shows I’ve accumulated on my hard drive on my TV. Well ok, I can do it now by hooking up my laptop’s video out. But doing it seamlessly through the 360? The idea has great appeal. Unfortunately, to do that with the 360 I’ll need a PC running Win XP Media Center Edition. So for me (and a lot of other people I’ll bet), the 360 will miss the all-in-one target entirely.

    On the PC vs. Console market issue: The best thing about console gaming for me has always been that “it just works”. You pop a game in, hit the on button, and sit back to play. The game will work on any of the identical systems. With PC games, this isn’t necessarily so. Ever since King’s Quest VI destroyed my family’s computer a number of years back, I’ve been glad to avoid the hassle. I guess I’m afraid that the console market might be heading away from this classic simplicity. I don’t have the time or money to keep upgrading a PC to play the latest games – I don’t want to have to worry whether my console will support a game either. I question Microsoft’s apparent desire to destabilize what has been a key advantage of consoles for years.

    Re your final question about games in libraries, I’m probably not qualified to answer. You might want to check out some of the past discussion in the LibGaming Google Group:
    Also of interest are two articles John Scalzo wrote for about selecting games for a library:


  • Hidden Peanuts » Blog Archives » Xbox 360 Review 8/18/2005

    […] Filed Under: Gaming, Ramblings, Reviews, TechA little over a year ago, I ranted and raved against the Xbox 360. Well, I’ll admit I was wrong. […]