“Why I Hate the Xbox 360 Elite”

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I’ll come right out and say it just so that there’s no confusion about my overall feeling for the Xbox 360 Elite: I hate the Xbox 360 Elite. The entire third model and strategy behind it is nothing more than a gigantic slap in the face of the gaming community at large. It insults the intelligence of everyone with at least an ounce of sense in their heads.

Looking at the hardware itself, Microsoft has done an ample job convincing a lot of gamers that the 360 Premium is worth $399, and nobody’s really questioning it at this point in time. Even skeptical consumers like me tossed down the $399 required to go “premium” for an Xbox 360, and came away quite impressed. Most of us thought that what we were buying was the “best of the best” in terms of packages that were offered by Microsoft. Sure, maybe in the future, Microsoft would release an updated version of the premium system with a few extras here and there to entice new buyers, like a bigger hard drive and an HDMI port eventually. That was fair. That made sense.

This new version being fair for gamers is quite debatable at this point in time. We already know that it doesn’t make sense. This new version is nothing more than necessary changes being price-gouged from those who would like these features. Black casing and accessories, a bigger hard drive, and the inclusion of an HDMI port and cable do not justify a $479 price tag. In fact, it doesn’t really warrant a price increase. These inclusions probably cost Microsoft next to nothing to implement in their existing Xbox 360 Premium. Make no mistake – that is exactly what they did.

After trying to wrap my head around this for several weeks, off and on, I still cannot for the life of me understand why Microsoft decided it necessary to implement a third version of the Xbox 360 to add features that should have just been added to the existing 360 Premium. For a company that wants to be the leader in the game industry, Microsoft is doing absolutely everything it can to splinter their users and screw over practically everybody who becomes a customer. This mistake is just the latest in a very, very long series of blunders and poor decisions from Microsoft.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not picking on Microsoft for wanting to make money. Far from it, actually. Making a profit is the name of the game. Nobody wants to work for negative income. I think just about everyone can agree that this seems to be a bit of an extreme way to recoup losses, though. This is certainly not the way to do it.

Here’s a question I’d like you to keep in mind as you read the rest of this article:

“Who is Microsoft trying to appeal to with the 360 Elite?”

Really, sit down and look at the 360 Elite and all of the other projects they’re doing. See if you can figure it out.

Microsoft has made it very clear that they’d like to rip you off earn your money from content on Xbox Live Marketplace via a subscription that most pay for on top of this content. So to that end, a 14GB 20GB hard drive isn’t nearly enough space to make that a convenient task for its users. When you start downloading high-definition stuff, 20GB starts getting very laughable, very fast. An easy solution here is to offer a larger capacity hard drive for sale for as low a price as you possibly can, and to introduce that same drive in all of the new 360 Premium editions you sell. After all, they’d like as many people as possible to get in on this whole downloadable content thing. One would think that’s the real reason they included a hard drive with the 360 Premium in the first place. While they’re at it, they might as well add an HDMI port for people with fairly new HDTVs to enjoy that high-definition content that they’d like consumers to buy on the Marketplace.

Microsoft did neither of these things. They introduced a 120GB drive available separately for an outrageously high-priced $179. (And you thought that $99 for 20GB was bad.) That is the minimum cost you can pay to really “jump in” to the Xbox Live Marketplace downloads. (Don’t even play like 20GB is good enough for that, folks.) Or you can pay $479 for a brand new Xbox 360 Elite. The obvious strategy at play here would be that they’re trying to entice new buyers who want high-definition stuff to get an Xbox 360 by only charging a little bit more for a better-equipped media system. They see that a regular 360 Premium goes for $399 and see all these extras for “only” $80 more, and it might start looking like a better deal. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but I think the average consumer would be far more willing to jump in for $399 with those features that really don’t cost you anything extra, anyway. It’d look a lot better for pre-existing owners, too.

But even the likely strategy of trying to entice new buyers with these decidedly high-definition features doesn’t make sense with how Microsoft chose to pursue it. You still have to purchase an HD-DVD drive for $199 extra, and you do not get an option to purchase a Blu-ray drive whatsoever. So it’s extra money for an HD-DVD drive or no next-generation disc format at all. Some choice. Considering how poorly HD-DVD is performing these days, no next-gen disc format at all seems to be the value here, and I think that Microsoft is purposely capitalizing on that with Xbox Live Marketplace to fill the void. But even then, Microsoft (probably purposely) missed a golden opportunity to include Wi-Fi with the 360 Elite to charge you for yet another outrageously high-priced accessory. While the AppleTV may not be flying off the shelves (or doing much of anything, really), at least they were smart enough to realize that most consumers aren’t going to want to have yet another wire to compliment their planet-sized power brick running across the room or house to a router.

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’ve used the phrase “outrageously” more than once to describe Microsoft’s charging practices for some of these products. That word was chosen because I honestly cannot think of a better word to use. Never have I chosen a more adept word to use. Upon doing a little bit of searching, I found a 120GB notebook drive (the same kind used in the Xbox 360) for $79. You’ll notice that the price is literally less than half of what Microsoft is charging for basically the same thing. That’s what it would cost me, the consumer, to buy just one. A Wi-Fi chip costs just a few dollars when bought in bulk, like Microsoft should have done for the Elite. HDMI ports and cables follow the exact same pricing structures as the Wi-Fi chips. When purchased in bulk and included in these systems, these enhancements cost Microsoft virtually nothing extra when they sell these systems at $399, and they would add far more in value to the product for the consumer than it would ever come close to costing Microsoft.

And perhaps most fittingly, to top it all off, Microsoft is still using notoriously shoddy hardware and charging more for it. They still haven’t implemented a new 65nm chipset that would almost certainly make the hardware more reliable and less prone to failure. Even though it would likely save them money after they implement it. They’d rather sell you and me known-substandard hardware to keep from spending a little bit of money and implementing the 65nm chipsets and just extend their warranties. If you have to extend the warranties due to the high failure rates, you might just want to bite the bullet and move onto the new hardware. Furthermore, they’ve done absolutely nothing to address the complaints of the system actually increasing the room temperature or being too loud. In short, this is the same awful hardware with rose-tinted glasses included to hide the real flaws. Even the new hardware is substandard. The HDMI port included is the old 1.2 specification, which is incapable of transmitting the new audio codecs that a lot of HD-DVD discs ship with. PS3, which launched in November, has had 1.3 as a standard since before it released. Microsoft has no excuse for that.

So I asked earlier “Who is Microsoft trying to appeal to with the Xbox 360 Elite?” Did you figure it out? The answer is “idiots”. Microsoft is trying to appeal to idiots with the Xbox 360 Elite. Idiots that would spend $479 for a crippled HD system. Idiots that would spend $479 for a new color and hardware inclusions that shouldn’t have required a new, higher-priced package. Microsoft has extorted its userbase long enough. I’d like to urge everyone who reads this to not be an idiot and pass on Microsoft’s new hardware revision, if you even still feel like giving it the courtesy of calling it a “revision” or “update”. I’m not saying “Don’t buy an Xbox 360”. I’m saying “Don’t buy an Xbox 360 Elite”.

About the author:
Jonathan Law is an AMN editorial columnist, and gamer since the age of two. An avid follower of all things video gaming, John’s columns can be found throughout the network, both at AMN Games and AMN Tek.