March 27, 2007 - In what appears to be Microsoft's standard cart-before-the-horse style of information delivery, the leading console manufacturer of this generation confirmed nearly all of the rumors preceding today's announcement of the new black, HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 Elite.
Dubbed the Xbox 360 Elite (not the "Zephyr" as had been rumored), the new black, $479.99 Xbox 360 comes bundled with a 120GB hard drive, has an HDMI port, and will ship to the US and Canada Sunday, April 29, 2007, Microsoft told IGN today in an interview over the phone.
The new "Elite" console contains the same parts, processors and chips as the Core and Pro units, and has the same dimensions, only it's got an HDMI port on its back-side (in addition to the standard RGB port) and comes with a 120GB hard disc drive (HDD), cables and headset, all in black.
"And for a unit that's got twice the hard drive storage space as the PS3, comes with an HDMI cable, an Ethernet cable and a headset, it's still $120 cheaper than the $599.99 high-end PlayStation 3," said Albert Penello, Microsoft's director of global platform marketing.
A standalone $179.99 HDD also ships April 29. This package includes one 120GB HDD, software, and a specialized cable to port data from a user's current hard drive to the new one. To complement the new black console, Microsoft will also ship a wireless black controller (MSRP $49.99), a black Play and Charge Kit ($19.99), and a standalone rechargeable battery pack ($11.99) on April 29, also in black.
"The Elite is not a limited edition. It's permanent. And we will not replace any sku," Penello explained when referring to the flurry of rumors preceeding the official announcement. "We now have three SKUs and we predict the primary seller will continue to be the Pro system."
Penello also addressed concerns the new bigger hard drive might lead game developers to require it as a standard. "We won't force experiences that require the new HDD. Games will still be optimized around the 20GB experience. Nobody will be forced to buy a new drive."
Microsoft has no plans to offer rebates, discounts, or free trade-ins for loyal early adopters. When asked how he thought gamers would respond to the new higher-priced addition, Penello said, "I think and hope that people are going to understand. There is as price for being an early adopter and your points and feelings are valid (Penello said when referring to gamers IGN suggested would be angry about the new system). But whenever you innovate and change, you have to face this situation. Your same old system is still perfectly valid. Think about it this way, it's a new bundle that comes with a bigger hard drive."
When IGN asked why the launch system didn't come with a larger hard drive and an HDMI port, Penello explained: "We could never have done this before, to bring HMDI and 120 GB to the system when we launched in 2005. The reason we didn't do it before was because the HDMI standard wasn't complete. It takes time to develop these things. We started the console earlier than Sony did and when the HDMI standard wasn't done. At the time we were developing, this stuff was in transition."
IGN suggested to Penello that gamers might become skeptical about buying an Xbox 360 because of the introduction to this new system. Many gamers are already skeptical the existing systems aren't reliable, as they have witnessed countless stories of broken 360s only one and a half years since the launch in November 2005. Why should they buy a new system now, if for some new reason, Microsoft decides to create a new system a year and a half from now?
"Should we just ignore new technology? Or listen to the input we hear from gamers and address it? If some new technology comes out, I'm going to have to look at that. We're trying something new."