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In a bid to popularize the Xbox 360 among novice and casual gamers, Microsoft will cease to offer Xbox 360 “core” flavour, but will offer “arcade” version at the same price-point instead this Fall. The novelty will feature free arcade games, but it remains to be seen whether free arcades from Microsoft will distract gamers from Nintendo Wii.

The world’s largest software developer already has a portfolio of arcade games in its Xbox Live service, however, as novice gamers will hardly access it easily to experience their new Xbox 360 game consoles, Microsoft decided to bundle five free arcade games along with 256MB memory card and Xbox Live Silver subscription with a special version of the console, according to reports from various web-sites.

The new Xbox 360 arcade can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com online store even today, but the device will officially begin shipments on the 23rd of October. The price of the arcade version of Xbox 360 will remain on the level of “core” flavour and will be $279. Given that no hardware changes are projected to the console itself, the only difference between “arcade” and “core” is product bundle, which is more attractive in case of the new version of the Xbox 360.

Executives at Microsoft recently acknowledged that the company needs to attract casual gamers to the Xbox 360 platform to compete against Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 arcade seems to be one of the first tangible actions to fulfill the intention. Probably, at $279 the new console from Microsoft may seem as attractive as Nintendo Wii at $249, meaning that the software giant finally managed to match Wii in terms of pricing. However, another advantage that Wii has is unique motion-sensitive wireless game controller, something that Xbox 360 does not have. As a result, Microsoft will need to promote the obvious advantages of its latest gaming platform: technical excellence and realistic graphics, something that is not really important for arcade games.

Microsoft is also projected to bundle Pro and Elite versions of the Xbox 360 with Forza Motorsport 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance titles, indicating their target market of experienced gamers.

Microsoft Xbox 360 console is based around microprocessor developed by IBM, high-definition visual processing unit designed by ATI Technologies, I/O controller engineered by SiS and some other key components. The gaming machine provides a broad set of multimedia capabilities in addition to games. The game console also features an HD DVD drive and other peripherals that should be acquired separately.

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