The high-end version of the Xbox 360 Elite will soon begin shipping with two of that platform's top titles bundled in at no extra cost. Halo 3 and Fable II will be included with the $400 console, replacing Lego Indiana Jones and Kung Fu Panda.
What's the impact? First off, most first time Xbox 360 buyers will be getting a far better deal: Halo 3 and Fable II are both 360 exclusives that garnered positive reviews when initially released (though Halo 3 is arguably the weakest entry in its series). Also interesting: instead of the family-friendly movie tie-in games found in the previous bundle (targeted at holiday shoppers), the new bundled games are strictly M-rated--the gaming equivalent of an R rating. While I'd say they're more of a "soft M" compared with the much more explicit antics of a Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil 5, or Dead Space, it suggests to me that Microsoft is ceding the kid-friendly market to industry leader Nintendo, and consolidating its strength among adult gamers--who, as George Will will tell you, make up 75 percent of the market.
The Xbox 360 also remains the only game console with native support for streaming Netflix video on-demand. By comparison, the identically priced PS3 plays HD Blu-ray movies, but the current configuration doesn't include any games. (For that you need to step up to the $500 version, which includes a larger 160GB hard drive and a copy of the game Uncharted.)
So what do you think? Is the refreshed Xbox 360 bundle a good deal for new gamers? Or would you recommend that they go with a lower-priced configuration? Or opt for a Wii or PS3 instead?