Xbox 360 Gains Controllers, Halo Edition

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As part of its E3 announcements, Microsoft Corporation has taken the wraps of a selection of new controllers for its Xbox 360 gaming platform and rolled out a specially-themed edition of the Xbox 360 with a 20 GB drive, specially-themed around the company’s pending release of Halo 3.

First up, Microsoft wants to make it easier for folks to chat and interact via its lucrative Xbox Live service—especially as that becomes more integrated with Windows Live services—so Microsoft has developed its Xbox 360 Messenger Kit, which the company is also calling the Xbox 360 ChatPad. The Messenger Kit is a small QWERTY keyboard which connects to any Xbox 360 controller to provide thumb-friendly text chat capabilities; the unit features backlit buttons (handy for low-light situations) and ships with an Xbox 360 headset. It should be available in early September at a suggested price of $29.99.

Microsoft is also rolling out Xbox 360 wireless controllers in two new colors—pink and dark blue. They should hit retailers in October—just in time for Microsoft’s big end-of-year holiday push—at a suggested price of $49.99. Japanese and European users will also be treated to a light blue Xbox 360 wireless controller.

To punctuate the release of Halo 3—which, of course, the company is touting to be the biggest game release ever—Microsoft plans to roll out a Halo 3-themed edition of the Xbox 360. The unit will sport Halo’s Spartan green-and-gold finish and Halo-themed accessories, including a wireless controller, wired headset, and special downloadable gamer pics and themes. While the unit only offers a (themed!) 20 GB hard drive, it does sport an HDMI port so players can take in Master Chief in all his high-definition glory, and the unit ships with a one-month Xbox Live Gold membership. Amusingly, the Xbox 360 Halo 3 special edition console will not ship with the Halo 3 game itself. Microsoft plans to start offering the console in September, but hasn’t announced pricing.

Finally, a brief return to the world of Xbox 360 controllers: Microsoft is taking a note from the Nintendo Wii in announcing plans to offer a simplified, alternative controller for the Xbox 360, dubbed simply “The Big Button Pad.” The wand-like controller sports four primary buttons along its shaft, topped by a mammoth button at the top. The idea is to offer a controller which is easy to use for casual gamers and non-traditional players who may be intimidated by the complexity of the standard Xbox controller, although the Big Button Pad isn’t motion-sensitive like the Wii Remote. At least at first, the Big Button Pad will not be available as a separate accessory; instead, it will debut with an Xbox 360 version of the Scene It? movie trivia game from Screenlife Games, although Microsoft hopes other developers will adopt the controller. Scene It?—with four Big Button Pads—will be priced around $60.

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