Microsoft launches the Xbox 360

After months of hype and speculation, Microsoft has finally launched the successor to the Xbox, the Xbox 360. The new system features an impressive array of hardware, including an ATI-designed video subsystem, a three-core CPU, and 512MB of memory. The new console's availability is quite limited, though there's some evidence that Microsoft is constraining supply, at least to a degree. Officially, the Xbox 360 will be offered at two price points: The $399 Xbox 360 system includes the console, hard drive, wireless controller, headset, component HDTV cable, and Ethernet cable, while the $299 Xbox 360 Core System ships with only a wired controller and a composite AV cable. Also, although it isn't listed as a shipping feature, only the Xbox 360 standard is backward-compatible with original Xbox games.

Unofficially, however, the prices are far higher. EBGames offers a package typical of many vendors, with the Xbox 360 "Ultimate Bundle" priced at $699, and the Xbox 360 "Core Bundle" at $599. EBGames tosses in an extra controller in both cases, as well as a variety of games, but there is no option for a standard bundle. At this point, it scarcely matters—the website prominently advises potential buyers that "Due to high demand, orders placed after October 26th may not ship until January or February 2006." In other words, if you didn't have the foresight to order months ago, you aren't going to get one anytime soon.

If you're curious about the Xbox 360's games, GameSpot has individualized reviews of the launch titles, as well as their separate impression of the system itself. With Christmas a month away, the 360 is definitely going to be on the "must-have" list of many a gamer.

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