Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive to Launch in Japan

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At the Tokyo Game Show 2006, Microsoft announced it will be shipping its HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 game console system in Japan on November 17, 2006, with an estimated price of ¥19,800 (roughly $170 USD); the HD DVD drive will ship with an Xbox 360 Universal Remote. Microsoft’s pricing is unexpectedly aggressive, indicating the company may be willing to forego some earnings in order to establish a greater market presence as Sony’s PlayStation 3 gets ready to launch.

"Xbox 360 and the HD DVD Player together deliver the most powerful and affordable games and movie system for Japanese consumers," said Peter Moore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Interactive Entertainment Business in the Entertainment and Devices Division, in a statement. "The freedom to choose their entertainment experiences is extremely important for consumers as they enter the next generation."

In addition, Microsoft announced that its "fall" software update for the Xbox 360 console, scheduled to be released later in 2006, will update the console to output both video game and movie content at full 1080p resolution. Avid games and home theater buffs will at last be able to take full advantage of their high-end HD displays…assuming the game and movie content offer 1080p, of course. The Xbox 360 does not (yet?) offer HDMI output, so 1080p will come only over VGA and component output, although content will be upscaled to 1080p automatically.

The move to ship the HD DVD drive in Japan—and increase the number of Xbox 360 titles available there for about 110—is a move to build a following for the console before Sony’s anticipated Playstation 3 launch. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has been greeted sluggishly by the Japanese market: Microsoft hopes that by offering a wider slate of games and optional HD movie capability, the Xbox 360 will appeal to Japanese consumers, particularly when faced with steep retail prices and initial product shortages of Playstation 3 units.

When will the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive ship in the U.S.? There’s no official word, but expect pricing right around $200.

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