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Microsoft sets Xbox 360 pricing

Company names the console's price in U.S., Britain and Europe but shies away from offering an exact launch date.

Pricing on the much anticipated Xbox 360 will start at $299.99, Microsoft announced Wednesday.

Scheduled to launch in North America in time for the holiday season, that core version of the tech giant's next-generation game system will include the console, one controller, a white faceplate and an audiovisual cable.

For $100 more, gamers can upgrade to the premium edition. That package will feature, in addition to the standard equipment, a headset, remote, membership to the Xbox Live entertainment and chat network, and a 20GB hard drive for storing games, music, and other content downloaded from Xbox Live. It will also swap out the wired controller for a wireless one.

The premium edition will be known as the Xbox 360 and will have a cream-colored shell, while the lower-priced version will be called the Xbox 360 core system and will come in a light green box, said David Reed, director of platform marketing for Xbox.

He predicted that many players who will buy the Xbox 360 this holiday season are likely to opt for the premium version. "There's no question we're going to sell a lot more Xbox 360 this holiday than we are of the Xbox 360 core system," Reed said.

Each of the optional components, along with memory units, battery packs and other accessories, can also be purchased separately.

Reed said that upgrading after the fact by buying the accessories piecemeal would likely cost around $200, while consumers will have the option to buy in at the premium level for $100 more than the core system.

Both the basic and premium systems come with built-in Ethernet ports and can play DVDs, CDs, MP3s and digital content from other devices including cameras.

Microsoft, which is racing rivals Sony and Nintendo to get its new console into the hands of gamers, also on Wednesday gave pricing for European markets. The core version of the Xbox 360 is expected to sell in Britain for 209 pounds ($378) and elsewhere in Europe for 299 euros ($368); including accessories, the prices would be 279 pounds and 399 euros.

The company said it would reveal pricing for the Japanese market at the Tokyo games fair next month.

Meanwhile, Reed acknowledged that Microsoft will likely have to subsidize the Xbox 360 in its early days, but he promised the console would eventually be profitable for the company.

He also said pricing for Xbox 360 games from Microsoft Game Studios would be in line with current-generation console games. Thus, gamers can expect to see Xbox 360 games from Microsoft, and probably other publishers, for around $49 to $59.