Thursday, February 19, 2009

Editorial: The Xpense of an Xbox 360

Competition is a staple of any industry, and the console market has seen this in spades. For their own part, Microsoft has always advertised the Xbox 360 as the middle-ground console in terms of price, and has now switched that to the most affordable current-generation console with last fall's price cuts.

Beginning at $199.99, the Xbox 360 Arcade console is the cheapest gaming console of this generation. But when all is said and done, how inexpensive is the Xbox 360? I gave this some serious thought last night, and tallied up how much I've spent on my Xbox 360, hardware and accessories only. The results:

Xbox 360 Pro (20 GB HDD) Console - $499.99
120 GB HDD - $159.99
Xbox Support Service Fee - $110.00
512 MB Memory Unit - $59.99
Wired Controller - $49.99
Xbox LIVE 12 + 1 Bonus Month Gold subscription - $44.97
Messenger Kit - $34.99
Universal Media Remote - $29.99
Play and Charge Kit - $22.99
Halo Custom Faceplate - $19.99

Subtotal: $1,032.89
20 GB HDD Sold: -$35.00
Total: $997.89

Now, I purchased my Xbox 360 Pro console in December of 2006, thus the higher cost there. I bought the 120 GB HDD to take advantage of the HDD install feature offered by the New Xbox Experience. The 512 MB Memory Unit is for backing up my save games in case my HDD ever fails. The Wired Controller is for when guests come over. Lastly, the Halo Custom Faceplate was a treat to myself and replace the smudged default Faceplate Xbox Support sent me with my first refurbished console. I've never liked the default white Faceplate to begin with. The other items are self explanatory.

Spent over a 2 year and 2 month period, that's a lot of money, and it's all in the accessories. Just for fun, let's look at the Xbox 360's predecessor, the original Xbox, which I also own.

Xbox console - $199.99
Controller S (Green) - $44.99
High Definition AV Pack - $39.99

Total: $284.97

Huge difference, huh. I purchased my Xbox console in October 2004, which explains the lower cost. The Controller S is for when guests come over, and the High Definition AV Pack was for a better picture quality via component cables (and it made a huge difference, even on a standard definition television). Of course, to make this a more fair comparison, I need to try and match not only the accessories I'd need to purchase to make my original Xbox as close to my Xbox 360 as possible, but also keeping in mind the time frame in which items would have been purchased. So, let's indulge a little.

Xbox Console - $299.99
Xbox LIVE Starter Kit - $79.99
DVD Movie Playback Kit - $54.99
Controller S - $44.99
High Definition AV Pack - $39.99
Memory Unit - $39.95

Total: $559.90

The Xbox purchase price is from December 2002. There are no HDD upgrades, the Xbox LIVE Starter Kit comes with a Communicator Headset and a 12 Month subscription, and of course you required the DVD Movie Playback Kit to watch DVDs on the Xbox console. Still cheaper than an Xbox 360, but with several fewer accessories that simply didn't exist.

Software wise, I own 9 retail Xbox games. 0 are available on the PlayStation 2 console, and all are now available on a PC, though 6 were released on the Xbox first as early as by a few months to as long as a few years.

Let's toy with this cost comparison concept a little further shall we, and modernize it a bit more. After all, my Xbox 360 is the centre of my entertainment centre, where my Xbox was not, and of course there's always increased costs with each new generation. For a more fair comparison, let's look at the Xbox 360's rival and the most expensive console of this generation, the PlayStation 3. Again, I'll add in the accessories needed to make the package as close as possible.

PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD Console - $699.99
DualShock 3 Controller - $54.99
Wireless Keypad - $49.99
Bluetooth Headset - $49.99
Component AV Cable & USB 2.0 Cable Pack - $39.99
Blueray Disc Remote Control - $24.99

Grand Total: $919.94

The PlayStation 3 had just launched in late 2006, and the PlayStation 3 60 GB HDD console was their top SKU at the time, retailing for $699.99. There is no wired headset for the PlayStation 3, so I had to use their Bluetooth Headset in it's place. For some odd reason, even though Sony loves to boast about the graphical prowess of their console, all SKUs only ship with a standard AV Cable, so I've added the equivalent cables that my Xbox 360 Pro came with. A 60 GB HDD would have sufficed for the PlayStation 3's partial HDD installs supported by some games, I could use any USB Flashdrive to back up my save games, Multiplayer via the PlayStation Network is free, the PlayStation 3's Controllers charge via a standard USB cable (included), and there's no such thing as Faceplates, which is why all these accessories are absent.

Pretty crazy huh. The Xbox 360 is actually more expensive than the PlayStation 3 console, and I didn't even include the Xbox 360 Wireless Networking Adapter. Since the PlayStation 3 comes with built-in wireless, it would be fair to include it, so that would run another $99.99 on the Xbox 360's end bringing its total up to $1,097.88.

Granted, all my accessory purchases were optional and I didn't need them, however several of them are related to the hardware issues that have plagued the Xbox 360 since launch.

Almost everyone I know that owns an Xbox 360 has had one hardware issue or another, often the three flashing red lights, and has had to deal with Xbox Support. Personally, I've had DVD drive issues with my retail console and my first replacement console. It was due to these experiences in full or in part that I purchased:

- 120 GB HDD (By installing games, I can prolong the life of my DVD drive)
- 512 MB Memory Unit (Worried about HDD failure)
- Xbox Support Service Fee (My first refurbished console was out of warranty, and an Xbox 360 Arcade at the time was still $299.99)
- Halo Custom Faceplate (This was a Make-me-feel-better gift to myself after my first replacement console arrived, since the replacement console's Faceplate had some smudges on it)

That's $349.97 extra that I've spent due to hardware issues on my Xbox 360 console, so ironically, all these problems for Micrsoft have helped them profit off of me further, and their console _should_ be less expensive than a comparable PlayStation 3 package.

So what am I saying? Am I telling all of you that the Xbox 360 is overpriced and unreliable and that you should all go and purchase PlayStation 3's? No, of course not. In my opinion, the Xbox 360 is still the best gaming platform of this generation. It has the exclusives that best cater to my tastes, a stronger online experience that also sees more exclusive content, and Microsoft's kept its word and still supports Backwards Compatibility while Sony nixed that from their current PlayStation 3 SKUs entirely.

On the software level, Sony is still playing catch-up, adding in basic features like Trophies, their version of Achievements that the Xbox 360 launched with, only in summer 2008. Still though, when you look at games...

I remember reading about people slamming Sony for loosing some key developers/exclusives to Microsoft, and it's true, there's fewer exclusive titles on the PlayStation 3 that interest me, however I find I'm playing a lot more cross-platform titles these days. I presently own 12 Xbox 360 retail games. 8 of those are available on the PlayStation 3 and 9 are available on PC (though many of those launched on the Xbox 360 first, with the PlayStation 3 versions following as early as two months to as late as a year later and the PC versions launching almost all at the same time, with only a few titles having a half year to a year difference). This means I presently only own 2 Xbox 360 games that I can not get elsewhere. That's a rather large contrast when compared to my original Xbox, where there was a much longer wait for titles to come to the PC and none are available on Sony's competing console.

So while I consider the Xbox 360 to be the best gaming platform out there right now, don't underestimate the costs involved in enjoying it. Gaming is and always has been an expensive hobby, this is nothing new to any of you reading this, however don't believe everything advertised, and always really think on those accessories you want; ask yourself if you really need them.

For my own part, I love my Xbox 360, however if it fails out of warranty again and I'm faced with paying another $110.00 to Xbox Support or buying a replacement Xbox 360 Arcade console for $199.99, I'd seriously need to stop and think.

Most of my current games I can purchase elsewhere, on either a PlayStation 3 or a PC, and I can play them for less cost (no yearly Xbox LIVE membership fee). As a consumer who's already spent a sizable amount on the Xbox 360 platform, I would need to take a longer look at the competition, both the PC and Sony's console, and really ask myself if it's worth re-investing in an Xbox 360 again or should I just cut my losses and sell my Xbox 360 accessories, recouping as much cost as possible to buy replacement games/products.

That'd be a tough call, and one I hope I never need to make.


Cameron Brow (kill3rwa5p) said...

That was a very well written thing. I never though of the total prices, you also didn't take in the game prices, which I found strange because you can't have a 360 without games. Kudos for the great article

Juxtapose said...

Thanks for the comments. I decided not to take game prices into account since I mainly play cross platform titles, and they're usually priced the same on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and about $10.00 off for the PC.

Since those are fairly standard, I decided to talk about the cross platform nature of the games in relation to the systems themselves.