Microsoft has confirmed what we all had assumed: that there will be a new Xbox 360 Arcade design to match the recently released new Xbox 360 Elite design. The Arcade model will sell for $199 as compared to $299 for the Elite. Beyond that, details are sparse but we can assume that the Arcade model won’t have a hard drive. Built-in WiFi is more questionable, but my guess is that Microsoft will include it; it just makes the Xbox 360 Arcade’s bullet points compare more favorably to the Nintendo Wii’s.
The lack of a hard drive is less of an issue than it used to be now that the Xbox OS supports two USB sticks of up to 16 GB each. 32 gigs is plenty of room for downloading arcade titles and saving games (and of course you can always swap out USB sticks if you need more room). Assuming the design is the same as the new Elite (which I’ve been testing since last Friday, and by 'testing' I mean playing games on), there’ll be two USB ports on the front of the unit and three in the back. Additionally we should see Xbox 360 + Kinect (Microsoft's upcoming camera/microphone array that lets you interact with games without picking up a controller) bundles that include both the Arcade and the Elite version once Kinect starts shipping on November 4th. My prediction is that the Arcade/Kinect bundle will be $299, a $50 savings over buying the components separately (not that Microsoft has officially announced a price for Kinect, but even their own online store is listing it at $149). Maybe Microsoft will throw in a Kinect game, too. Let’s hope so. Now all that said, if you’re in the market for your first Xbox 360 or you have an early model that needs replacing, this is a great time to get a good deal. Many of the big box stores are slashing prices on the ‘old’ models to make room for the new. The difference in features between the current generation of ‘old’ Xboxes and the new model is really fairly slim. Built-in WiFi is the only real feature difference (and to be fair, it might be enough to sell you on the new models) Besides the WiFi, the new model has a distinct audio optical port (the old model had it built into a proprietary cable that MS was happy to sell you), a Kinect port (which provides both power and data to the Kinect; older Xboxes can use Kinect but will have to plug it into a wall socket for power), no XBox Memory Unit slots, and 5 USB ports rather than 3. It is smaller (but certainly not tiny), and quieter, but recently manufactured Xbox 360s are much quieter than units from the first years of the system’s lifespan. I upgraded from an original Xbox 360 with a manufacture date of September 2006 and that beast was loud. The new Xbox 360 Elite has a 250 GB drive and sells for $299. Both Amazon and Newegg have the old 120GB Xbox 360 Elites, bundled with a couple of good games for older gamers (Halo: ODST and Forza Motorsport 3) for $249, and the Xbox Arcade bundle with a couple of decent games kid-friendly games (Banjo-Kazooie and Viva Pinata) for $149. That's less than what you'd pay for a Wii. Heck, it's less than what you'd pay for a Nintendo DSi! The ‘old’ 250 GB Elite bundles are holding at $299, but they do include a game (either Splinter Cell Conviction or Final Fantasy XIII, depending on the bundle you choose) and a second controller. And for the record, if you have a reasonably new Xbox 360 (HDMI port, ample hard drive space and a noise level that doesn’t drive you bonkers) there’s very little reason to upgrade to the new Xbox 360 models. If, like me, you have an old, super-noisy, component-only Xbox with a measly 20 GB drive (13 GB usable) then upgrading is well worth it. That Xbox 360 Arcade bundle is a killer-deal though; don't let its inclusion of the 'old' Xbox 360 put you off it. If you want to take advantage of these bundle deals (particularly the old Elite deals), you should do so soon before supplies run out.