An extensive leak of alleged documents about Microsoft’s Xbox 720 has drawn a lot speculation about the upcoming console and whether or not the heavily detailed information is fake. In particular, many people are scoffing at the supposed $299 launch price, saying that there’s no way a next-generation gaming system will be that cheap.
But, when you look at the facts—and Microsoft’s console launch history—299 dollars actually sounds accurate.
Fact: Microsoft launched both the original Xbox (in 2001) and the “core” Xbox 360 model (in 2005) at $299.
Ever since their first console, $299 has always been the lowest price point for a new Xbox. That was the price of the original Xbox, and it was also the price of the “core” Xbox 360, which notably lacked HD component cables, Ethernet cables, and the “premium” edition’s 20GB hard drive.
(To wit, the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 also launched at $299.)
Most retailers currently offer three Xbox 360 SKUs, all with built-in Wi-Fi and Kinect-ready ports:
- Xbox 360 4GB Console — $199 [no hard drive]
- Xbox 360 4GB Console w/ Kinect — $299 w/ a Kinect Sensor [no hard drive]
- Xbox 360 “Elite” 250GB Console — $299 [no Kinect Sensor]
Microsoft (or more specifically, the Microsoft Store) also has a continuing $99 Xbox 360 4GB console deal that comes with the Kinect Sensor, but requires a two-year Xbox Live contract.
If Microsoft maintains this kind of price structure, it’s very likely that the Xbox 720 will be $299.
Logically, people will be slow to upgrade from the Xbox 360 if the Xbox 720 is too expensive. Not only does the Xbox 720 have to compete against the PS4 and Wii U in a down economy, but the surging tablet and smartphone market pretty much prohibits insanely high prices like the PlayStation 3’s exorbitant $499 and $599 launch tags.
At the very least, you can be fairly sure that the Xbox 720 will follow the same launch price model as the first two Xbox consoles. And if the leaked Xbox 720 presentation is real, that core unit will definitely come with the bare minimum of “Kinect 2” and possibly even backwards compatibility at $299.
With that in mind, here’s what you can most likely expect when Microsoft announces a new console:
- Xbox 720 “Core” — $299 w/ Kinect 2 and built-in Wi-Fi [no hard drive]
- Xbox 720 “Elite” — $399+ w/ Kinect 2, built-in Wi-Fi, and various hard drive sizes/bundles
Unlike the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 720 also won’t be introducing any new type of optical drive either, which was a key reason why Sony’s PS3 was so expensive so early in its life cycle. Before, the gaming market went from cartridges to CDs to DVDs to Blu-ray discs—but unlike previous years, there’s nothing to supercede Blu-ray.
If anything, Microsoft has to have learned from Sony’s mistakes with the PS3. Instead of launching the Xbox 720 at a high cost and making a price drop later, the smarter move will be to maintain the $299 launch price minimum model for as long as possible, and offset whatever losses they take with Xbox Live, accessory sales, and (possibly) the launch of their rumored “Kinect Glasses” in 2014.
Hell, I’ll even go a step further and say, based on history alone, that the Xbox 720 will launch in November 2013.
Even if you don’t believe anything you’ve heard about the Xbox 720 yet, don’t be so quick to think that Microsoft can’t offer a new gaming console for a far less expensive price than you might be expecting.
UPDATE: Microsoft’s $299 Xbox 360 Elite 250GB was erroneously listed with a Kinect Sensor. It does not have one.