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HD-Laden Xbox 360 Launches Nov. 22

Microsoft's (opens in new tab) next big thing, its much-anticipated HD-enhanced Xbox 360 games console, is set to hit North American store shelves on Tuesday, Nov. 22, amid what's expected to be an escalating amount of pre-hype attention and reviews (including this item, too, of course). A total of 18 games and 13 accessories will be available for the new box, which, according to Microsoft, is a game console record for new offerings.

In Japan, which always seems to have the drop on the United States when it comes to the introduction of new techno-stuff, published reports cite the opening of the "Xbox 360 Lounge" in Tokyo's apparently very cool Omotesando District earlier this month, ahead of its Japanese launch on Dec. 10. (Well, at least the United States gets to try it out three weeks earlier.) It launches in Europe Dec. 2.

The Tokyo café reportedly offers six display stands for users, with each display sporting an Xbox 360 console and HD set. Early reviews suggest that Xbox 360 will include immediately noticeable HD-worthy graphics capabilities over the current Xbox and Sony's PlayStation 2. Some reviews point out that the leap from SD to HD gaming, by itself, makes an impressive improvement over the first Xbox, along with a more powerful hardware platform. (Some bloggers also opine that the new console is not solely dependent on HD monitors to see the difference in video quality; they can see the enhancements in SD, as well.)

The plugs connected to Xbox 360 consoles at the Tokyo lounge reportedly had switches for flipping between SD and HD outputs. Meanwhile, PlayStation 3 from Sony is expected to launch around mid-2006.