Some stray ads have spawned speculation over the past week that Microsoft might soon be releasing a new Xbox 360 Elite with a 250GB hard drive and two wireless controllers.
The ads suggest that the new console is called the Xbox Super 360 Elite. The current Xbox 360 Elite comes with a 120GB hard drive and one wireless controller.
The rumors started last week when Amazon.com's German store listed an Xbox 360 Elite with a 250GB hard drive, two wireless controllers, and Forza Motorsport 3 bundled in the package. It was priced at about $400. The listing was subsequently removed from Amazon's pages.
The very next day, a South African retailer called BT Games promoted the Xbox Super 360 Elite in an ad. It also featured a 250GB hard drive, two wireless controllers, and a $400 price tag.
Although it's certainly possible for one listing to accidentally slip out for a product that might not be real, it's extremely coincidental that two listings, from two companies, about the same Xbox 360 model were discovered over two days.
I contacted Microsoft to see if it plans to release the Xbox Super 360 Elite. Rather than saying that it didn't want to comment on rumors or speculation--a common Microsoft response--a company representative said: "Microsoft has made no such announcement."
Microsoft contends that its Xbox 360 Elite is on par with the PlayStation 3 and the new PS3 Slim, even though Xbox lacks several PS3 features, including Blu-ray, built-in Wi-Fi, and free online gaming. When pressed for why it believes that the Xbox 360 Elite's value proposition is high enough, the company said that it's all about games to the gamer.
"Xbox 360 offers double the games library of PlayStation 3, and with Xbox Live, nearly 20 times the number of digital movies and TV shows," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail. "On top of that, we're bringing even more to the table with instant-on 1080p HD streaming, Facebook and Twitter, and the future of games and entertainment with Project Natal."
Microsoft also asserts that its Xbox 360 Arcade--at $199--captures a portion of the market that its competitors cannot.
"When you're looking to find the best value in games and entertainment, price is really just one piece of the puzzle," the rep said. "However, consumers with $200 to spend this holiday season will still only find one console within their price range: our Arcade console."
Although Microsoft is focused on price, the Xbox Super 360 Elite looks to be $100 more expensive than the current price of the Xbox 360 Elite and the PlayStation 3. If Microsoft is so concerned about price, it might not offer the Super after all.
But if it wants to refresh its product line to fight on, it might. Sony has said on numerous occasions that its PlayStation 3 is the only console on the market that has a "10-year life cycle." I asked Microsoft if it believes its current offerings, the Arcade and the Elite, will be able to hold out against Sony's supposed decade product.
"We believe Xbox 360 will be the entertainment center in the home for long into the next decade," the rep said. "That said, Xbox 360 is a constantly evolving product and we remain focused on transforming home entertainment with another lineup of...exclusive games, new entertainment and social experiences through Xbox Live, and whole new ways to play with Project Natal."
Microsoft might be banking its future on Project Natal. The motion-controlled platform that the company unveiled at E3 2009 is, according to some developers, the next Xbox. When pressed back in July about what will show up in the next Microsoft console, Epic Games Vice President Mark Rein pointed to Natal. "It's called Natal," Rein said. "That is the next Xbox."
So it seems that equally believable arguments can be made for Microsoft releasing or not releasing the Xbox Super 360 Elite. On one hand, Microsoft will neither confirm nor deny its existence. On the other hand, it seems especially focused on Project Natal, rather than offering a $400 console that still doesn't have Blu-ray or built-in Wi-Fi.
But at this point, especially as the holiday-shopping season approaches, anything is possible. We'll keep an eye on this space to let you know if there's any more hints of a "Super" Xbox 360 hitting store shelves. Until then, feel free to comment on whether you think it's a good idea for Microsoft to release an Xbox Super 360 Elite.