Xbox 360 Back in Black

Rumors have been circulating for months about a black Xbox 360, and now they appear to be confirmed: The Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite, due at the end of April, will reportedly be shipped in black — but just for a limited time.

With HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output and a 120 GB hard drive, the US$479 Xbox 360 Elite will include an HDMI cable and black game controller, according to gaming Web site Game Informer. It will not support HD DVD playback, though a drive can be added on. For users with a current-generation Xbox 360, a separate hard drive will reportedly also be available for less than $200.

A Limited Engagement

Fans of black will have to act quickly: Reports indicate that the black casing will only be used for an unspecified but limited time. The Elite will ultimately replace the current Xbox Premium — maybe even as soon as this summer — but in white form once again.

Still unconfirmed is whether the devices will include 65nm chips.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on the reports.

A Natural Progression

“It sounds like this is the type of evolution for the console that blends into Microsoft’s strategy for the device,” Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with JupiterResearch, told TechNewsWorld. “It takes what is already a good device and makes it that much better.”

“Gamers have complained about the small hard drive and lack of after-market solutions for the Xbox,” added Michael Cai, director of broadband and gaming with Park Associates.

Indeed, “A lot of people like to fill up hard drives with games,” Ted Pollak, senior analyst for the gaming industry at Jon Peddie Research, told TechNewsWorld. “As games get more complicated, they take up more space. I think the hard drive is important, and 120 gigabytes is a good sweet spot.”

Particularly given the introduction of Xbox Live Video last fall, the ability to download and store more content locally makes a lot of sense, Gartenberg agreed.

Marketing or Substance?

As penetration of HDTV grows nationwide, meanwhile, Parks Associates’ data indicates that adoption among console users is particularly high — nine months ago, it was already at 40 percent, Cai told TechNewsWorld.

Therefore, while much of the Xbox Elite news feels “more like marketing than system enhancement,” Cai said, HDMI capabilities could have value for console gamers.

They will need value because, as Pollak noted, the price is “luxurious.” On the other hand, when there’s limited availability, “people will always pay more,” Cai added.

What about the new color? “Certainly, it’s a trend for companies to use basic color styling change to restimulate demand and create a reason to get the public-relations engine going,” Pollak noted.

Besides, “black is the new everything,” Gartenberg added. “You can’t go wrong with black.”

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