On the opening day of the E3 video game conference, Microsoft unveiled a sleek new version of its Xbox 360 console that features a slimmer design and, according to the company, "whisper-quiet" operation. Most exciting, perhaps, is that this console is shipping much sooner than expected: not later this year but immediately to retailers and for sale later this week. And despite its improved specifications—including built-in Wi-Fi 802.11N and a 250GB hard drive—the new Xbox 360 will cost the same as the previous-generation version.
"We are launching a whole new era of entertainment, a brand-new era for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live," Microsoft Senior Vice President Don Mattrick said during a live briefing Monday. "And to kickstart this new era, your new Xbox 360 is completely redesigned for the future of entertainment. It's sleeker, smaller, whisper-quiet, and with a 250GB hard drive along with built-in Wi-Fi N, which is the fastest Wi-Fi on any console. You're getting all of this in your new Xbox 360 for the same price \\[as the current console\\] ... $299."
Microsoft also announced that its Kinect (formerly "Project Natal") motion-sensing add-on for the Xbox 360 will ship on November 4, 2010 in North America. Kinect will be accompanied by a host of new games, casual and otherwise. Microsoft also revealed a number of exclusive agreements with software developers that will make the Xbox 360 the number-one device for hardcore gamers. Between exclusive games such as Halo: Reach (due September 14) and Gears of War 3 (April 2011), and Xbox 360-first add-on content such as maps for the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops (November 2010), Microsoft hopes to keep its more fanatical followers happy.