XBOX 360 fans have been quiet for some time, quietly enjoying on-line gaming with games like Full Metal Gear and Halo. Their excitement is building, however, with the release of the XBOX 360 ELITE. The upgraded XBOX system has been rumored for some time, but now there is an actual release date for the Elite, which is said to be late April. This is the system for hardcore gamers with a bigger hard-drive, 120 GB, for full on gaming. It also includes an HDMI port and cable.
The sleek, black Elite is a limited edition, with as few as a couple hundred thousand units being produced. Expected to debut with a retail price of $479, this system is designed for more than child’s play. Only 32M of memory are dedicated to the system, that includes the kernal memory, device drivers, live capabilities, music, and virtual keyboard. This leaves a full 480MB for gaming.
The available memory is the biggest difference between the PS3 and the XBOX. According to Microsoft, the bigger memory allows game developers to developer better games with enhanced graphics and interaction capabilities. This also allows the system to be enhanced in the future, without affecting the ability to play current games on the system. This makes the price tag less overwhelming, considering gamers may no longer need to continually purchase new systems every two years, as has been the trend in the game system wars over the past ten years.
The PS3 memory “footprint”, or memory configuration, does not currently allow for the kind of expansion capability the XBOX 360 contains. The PS3 memory is split, with one unit reserved for graphics. The other 256MB is almost completely consumed by the system. This puts PS3 at a disadvantage in future game development. Graphics and interactivity require greater available memory.
Currently, the PS3 still trails the XBOX in international sales. The PS3 market isn’t predicted to even catch up to the XBOX until 2008, when the PS3 has had sufficient time to build up it’s gaming library. It is likely now, that the PS3 will have to add external memory storage in order to keep up with game development designed for systems with larger memory. Most games on the market already push the memory limit. Developers are now able to take game features as far as the system memory will allow. There are already games that were scheduled to launch on PS3, but have been delayed due to incompatibility issues that take time to resolve. This titles have already successfully launched on the original XBOX.
The PS3 and XBOX 360 marketing war will come down to the gaming experience. XBOX is in the lead if they are able to avoid issues due to memory fragmentation. PS3 maintains that this is not the case. Many gamers love Sony’s system because of its speed, but Microsoft predicts, they may be sorry as game development continues to broaden horizons requiring more memory.
Once the Limited Edition Black Elite is sold out, Microsoft is expected to upgrade the white box to 120GB. It remains to be seen whether there will be a price cut, or whether the four hundred dollar price tag will remain the going rate. The market may sustain the higher price as gamers look to the XBOX upgrade as their final system purchase for the next few years. The Microsoft tactic seems to attract consumers with their software, and then design systems that will work around the gaming products the public demands.
One thing is for sure with price tags exceeding three and four hundred dollars, gaming is no longer just for kids. It seems big boys want their toys, and their demands for realistic graphics, speed, and interactive ability are far beyond the demands of teens who gave the gaming market it’s first golden opportunities. Most young gamers need not worry, if they can get their dad in on the fun, he is likely to foot the bill for the bigger and better systems.
We’ll all be watching when the Elite Limited Edition XBOX 360 is released. I wonder how many of us will ever be able to get our hands on one, and at what price.