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New price cuts upend console value landscape

Now that the 360 and PS3 are $300, is the Wii the worst value in gaming?

Microsoft official confirmed the worst-kept secret in games: the Xbox 360 is receiving a price cut on its top-end Elite system starting Friday. In other words, the long list of leaked catalog circulars weren't fakes. What this means is that the 120GB hard-drive-toting Xbox 360 Elite that used to be $400 will now be $300--the same cost as a PS3 Slim.

The Xbox 360 Pro, with its 60GB hard drive, will drop to $250 instead of $300, and will keep being sold until it vanishes off shelves. Kudos, by the way, to Microsoft for actually lowering the price on a soon-to-be-discontinued model, as opposed to the fate of the PS3 Fat. The updates are official on the company's Web site.

Great value, or just fair? CNET

The Xbox 360 Arcade, however, will continue to cost $200. While that's somewhat fair, considering it's technically the cheapest next-gen console on the market, it's a bad deal. A hard drive, however, is an absolute necessity. The 360's proprietary 120GB hard drive costs $150, so you're effectively saving 50 dollars on the purchase of an Elite. If the 360 had a removable standard hard drive like the PS3 does, we might be singing a different tune on the Arcade.

This only makes the sound of that ticking clock over at Nintendo headquarters even louder. Will the Nintendo Wii reduce its price this holiday season? According to Nintendo's Yasuhiro Minagawa, the company still has no plans to do so. This doesn't mean, however, that a similarly priced bundle with a Wii MotionPlus and possibly a new game (Wii Sports Resort?) isn't in the plans.

Now that the 360 and PS3 are cheaper, the landscape of gaming is shifting in terms of value. We commented on this in terms of handheld systems, but it's also true in terms of the Wii. It can no longer be called a budget system by any stretch.

Realistically, Nintendo probably won't lower the price until one of its rivals makes its fully fledged system even cheaper than a Wii, and that's not likely to happen soon...or ever.

The other question is, has the PS3 leapfrogged the 360 in terms of console value, even with the new Elite price cuts? The Slim consumes less power, has Blu-ray, and is already based on hardware that came out a year after the Xbox 360 hit store shelves. Meanwhile, the Xbox 360 has held the fort with a console that still lacks built-in Wi-Fi, a feature available on the Nintendo DS.

So, which is it...a $300 Xbox 360 Elite, a $300 PS3 Slim, or a $250 Wii?

Or, a $200 Xbox 360 Arcade?