Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Once You Go Black, You Never Go Back

Microsoft has been at this video game console thing for a while now. Since 2001, in fact. And while that does technically make them the freshman of the big 3, I think it's safe to say that Bill Gates has been around the boardroom enough times to know how to make an impact. And steal a market.

With all the problems and PR that Sony has had for the past year or so, MS has been quietly cleaning up. Their console was selling strong, good games were appearing, and long-time PS exclusives were coming to the 360. Then Nintendo had to go and rock the boat. But leave it to Microsoft to come up with a winning plan to take back the market. And what's that plan, you ask? Well, it's a sexy, new, black 360...that costs even more than the current one. Yeah.

Pictured above is the long-rumored XBox 360 Elite. New details surfaced this week, suggesting this might actually happen. The details? The console will sell for a limited time, be all black, including the controller, come with a 120 GB hard drive, and have an HDMI port. Oh, and it will also command an $80 premium over the current premium console. That's right, the price will be $480.

With all the trouble Sony is having moving their high-priced hardware, does anyone in Redmond actually think a more expensive 360 is a good idea? What's worse is that after the limited run, the Elite hardware will become the new premium model, presumably at the standard $400 price point. So, you're basically paying $80 for a black paint job. Now that's value.

The better way to play this would be to just scrap the current premium hardware altogether, and make this version the new premium. Offer it in black for a limited time, and when that's over, go back to the white shell and drop the core unit's price to $250, further distinguishing the new premium as high-tech hardware. But no, apparently that makes too much sense. Instead, they'd rather muddy the console waters even more with a third XBox SKU.

Microsoft has a real shot at the top spot in this console generation, so it's baffling to see them shoot themselves in the foot with stuff like this and the Halo 3 Legendary Edition price. Do they think gamers are made of money? All they need to do is look to the Sony camp to see that's not true. If millions of PlayStation fanboys won't pony up for the sexy beast that is the PS3, what chance does the 360 Elite have?

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