Microsoft has confirmed the April 29th U.S. debut of the Xbox 360 Elite, a new model that will include a 120GB hard drive, a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port, a high-definition cable, and a premium black finish for the console, wireless controller and Xbox Live headset for $479. A one-month Xbox Live Gold account will also come bundled with the Elite.
The new 120GB hard drive will also be sold as a stand-alone accessory for $179, "...to give current Xbox 360 owners greater choice and flexibility in their games and entertainment experience", according to an official company statement.
Additional Xbox 360 Elite accessories, such as the black Xbox 360 Wireless Controller ($49.99), Xbox 360 Play & Charge kit ($19.99) and the Xbox 360 rechargeable battery ($11.99) will be available separately from the April 29th date onwards.
"Today's games and entertainment enthusiast has an insatiable appetite for digital high-definition content," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "Xbox 360 Elite's larger hard drive and premium accessories will allow our community to enjoy all that the next generation of entertainment has to offer."
In response to the announcement, Sony vice president of marketing Peter Dille sent the following, "We think every PlayStation 3 owner should have an 'elite' experience, which is why we include an internal hard drive and HDMI output in every PS3 we sell, along with the 50 GB of storage capacity on a high definition Blu-ray disc."
"Sony has been the strongest advocate of high definition as the future of next-generation gaming," he continued. "This requires high-definition components, including HDMI output, and large storage devices to deliver and store all that rich and vivid HD content. Microsoft's announcement today not only legitimizes Sony's PS3 strategy, it moves us closer to adopting universal standards in the area of high definition gaming that will benefit game developers and ultimately the end user."
Lazard's Colin Sebastian, too, responded to the announcement in an investor note, saying he believed the new system was "unlikely to alter the video game landscape significantly" with dedicated gamers already having a selection of existing Xbox 360 platforms already well suited for gameplay.
Instead, he offered, "we believe the biggest source of demand for the Xbox Elite could be technology early adopters looking for an easier way to link Internet-based content with their televisions. In this respect, the Xbox Elite will also compete with the Apple TV."
"We note," he concluded, "that Microsoft could access a much broader gaming audience by lowering the price on the existing systems (currently $399 and $299), which we believe is still a possibility before the end of the year."