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HD Xbox 360 Released to Mostly On-Order Buyers

The long-anticipated launch of the next Xbox from Microsoft (opens in new tab) , the 360, officially hit store shelves early Tuesday, although the "shelves" were perhaps more symbolic in many areas than anything else. So many consumers pre-ordered the new console that most retailers had already sold out of their initial shipments before they arrived.

Therefore, many stores reportedly did not bother to hold special openings at the bewitching hour of 12:01 a.m. local time, Nov. 22. One notable exception was Wal-Mart, which typically is open 24 hours a day, and saw a rush of post-midnight gamers on Tuesday morning, hoping for the best, as did some other big-box retailers.

The core 360 system retails for $300 and includes a wired controller and S-video cable. The premium package ($400) includes Ethernet and component HD AV cable for connecting to an HD set and/or a home computer network, a detachable 20 GB hard drive, wireless controller, and headset for voice communicating during online games, and for video conference calls.

According to some bloggers--who apparently beta-tested the 360 in recent weeks--an HD monitor is not essential to fully enjoy the system and they noticed better video detail compared with the original Xbox. Other bloggers and amateur reviewers have suggested it makes little sense to purchase the new console if the gamer does not have an HD-quality monitor or receiver, or plans to buy one.

HD proponents and content providers will look for signs that the new Xbox 360 might prompt a noticeable uptick in sales of HD sets, which can be several times more expensive than the Xbox 360 itself. Yet some marketers think it's the parents who purchase many of the Xbox systems, which is one reason some marketers might believe Microsoft added a lot of computer-like bells and whistles to the new console that makes it a "more serious" product than a mere gaming device.

But they also seem to agree that it will be the games, and not DVDs, videoconference calling or home networking that will sell the units.