I was kind of looking forward to the Xbox 360 Elite announcement. I’m almost positive I’ll buy a 360 at some point this year: I doubt the Wii and DS will be enough to keep me happy this year, and it even seems likely that the 360 willl have more games I’m really interested in this year than any other console. In fact, it looks like the first must-have 360 game for me will show up next month (Mass Effect, by the makers of the excellent Jade Empire), and while the first half of this year is looking abnormally strong game-wise, so I might not need to rush out immediately to buy it, I’ll probably be bored if I don’t buy it at some point over the summer.

But I’d rather not pay $400 for a console, and by all accounts a shockingly high proportion of the consoles break. Surely a redesign is a sign that they’ll drop prices, and maybe give us a signal that their manufacturing has improved somehow?

No, it turns out: they’re keeping the prices of existing models the same, just adding a new model on top. With a strange price point and set of features: I for one don’t care in the slightest about HDMI outputs, and while there are people out there who do, it seems like those people would look at an 360 for $480 and a PS3 for $500/600, and shell out the extra money to get a Blu-ray player. The business logic behind making your console look more like your surprisingly unsuccessful competitor, and doing so in a way as to maximize the likelihood of negative comparisons, escapes me. But what do I know?

No matter the price, I clearly wasn’t getting the Elite, but I could have done with a price drop. As far as quality goes, the initial comment from Microsoft along the lines of “our other models have crap quality but the new one will be better” didn’t impress me too much. A day or two ago, though, they announced that they were improving the warranty terms: now, if it breaks within the first year, they’ll repair it at no cost (including free shipping) and have it back within 5 days.

I suppose I’ll grudgingly shell out 400 bucks for one at some point this summer. Which would seem to be evidence that their strategy of not lowering the price is paying off, at least in this case. I would say that I’m not sure I’m representative, but maybe I am: if other people agree that the 360 is coming into its own this year, then Microsoft probably should hold off on price drops. I guess their feeling is that they aren’t likely to win over many Wii buyers, that they still have compelling advantages over Sony, and that they like actually not losing money on consoles, so no sense dropping their price until Sony does. Not sure they’re making the right choice, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not my problem.

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