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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Doing a 360

There’s an electricity in the air.

It charges the muscles of store clerks stacking new green and white boxes in a window display.

It runs through the veins of teenagers scanning the Internet for new information.

It reaches Wal-Marts and GameStops across the country, where lines of people will form late at night.

It’s the excitement that comes with a new video game console release – an event that happens only twice per decade.

The Xbox 360, a sleekly-designed system from Microsoft, represents the next step in the evolution of consoles from simple toys to sophisticated entertainment centers.

According to information released by Microsoft, the 360’s games feature high-definition graphics meant to be played on HDTVs.

That means the images are crisper and more detailed than standard-definition displays.

The graphics are also geared for widescreen sets, as opposed to the 4-by-3 ratio’#160;screen that has been the gold standard of television sets for decades.

No game console prior to the 360 has output graphics in HD – one of Microsoft’s chief selling points.

Another feature the corporation is pushing is the 360’s Internet gaming service, “Xbox Live.”

Xbox Live is a centralized service for gamers to connect to each other to play games, talk to each other over voice chat, create and view player profiles and watch others’ games in progress.

Microsoft also offers demos of new games, trailers for upcoming games and themes for the 360’s menu screens through Live.

But it’s not just for games – Live can be a virtual marketplace for 360 owners to buy and sell each other’s T-shirts, skateboards or whatever else they decide to sell.

Most of Xbox Live is free through a “Silver” subscription, barring any fees for downloading content, but only “Gold” subscribers can play games online. The Gold subscription costs $50 per year or $8 per month.

Neither Nintendo nor Sony, Microsoft’s two competitors in the video game hardware market, have as many features in their Internet gaming services as Xbox Live.

The 360 is also capable of playing DVD movies and music CDs, streaming media from portable music players and digital cameras docked at computers running Windows XP and ripping music from CDs and storing it to a hard drive.

But none of these features come without a price.

There are two packages on retail shelves – a $300 “Core Pack” and the standard $400 unit, called the “premium pack” at some stores.

The Core Pack is the bare-bones console. It comes with a wired controller and cables for hooking the system up to a standard television.

The premium pack features a wireless controller, a 20-gigabyte hard drive, an ethernet cable for connecting the system to the Internet, a headset with microphone for voice chat during Internet games and cables for connecting to a high-definition television.


What gamers think

Video game players have mixed feelings about the impending launch of the Xbox 360, ranging from anticipation to cynicism.

Rob Councell, a sophomore at the University, is in the former camp.

“I’m excited, I want to own one,” he said. “I don’t expect many new features, just an upgraded Xbox … a bigger hard drive, quicker loading times, better graphics.”

But Taylor Trusler, another sophomore, is less positive.

“They’re putting way too much emphasis on graphics [with the 360],” he said. “If anything, I won’t buy it until after a year, but that’s just the way I am with consoles.”

Trusler pointed out the relatively short amount of time between the release of the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox – a difference of about four years, while the average console generation spans five or six years for competitors like Sony and Nintendo.

“I think they rushed production with it,” he said. “There’s something about it [the 360], just the fact that they came out with it so quick.”

Trusler also criticized Microsoft’s new console featuring nothing out of the ordinary – an argument made by many industry watchers who call the system “Xbox 1.5,” a jab at its incremental upgrade over its predecessor.

“I’d like something different,” Trusler said, “kind of like Nintendo with their Revolution controller.”

Nintendo’s next console, code-named “Revolution,” is planned for release sometime during 2006 with a controller shaped like a remote control.

The Revolution controller sets itself apart from standard game pads by sensing how the user moves it in real space, as opposed to controlling in-game characters and objects with control sticks like standard controllers do.

Councell, on the other hand, feels differently about the 360’s opposition.

“Its only competition is Sony,” he said. “Nintendo is garbage.”

He said Nintendo’s games are more oriented toward children, while Xbox is geared toward older audiences.

Meanwhile, Sony stays competitive through its popularity.

“Sony sells in the masses – everyone I know has a PS2,” he said.

Ironically, both students’ opinions of the 360 are juxtaposed on the issue of Xbox Live.

Trusler, despite a somewhat jaded outlook on the 360, said Live is a good thing.

“I love the Xbox Live service, I think it’s really well done,” he said.

Meanwhile, Councell is averse to all Internet gaming, including Xbox Live.

“I don’t prefer console gaming to be over the Internet,” Councell said. “You might not get a reliable connection.”

He said extras like downloadable rosters for sports games are good, but he would only use the service if it doesn’t cost anything.

Money is no object to him when it comes to the hardware, though.

He said the $400 premium pack is a better option than the $300 Core Pack.

“You’re gonna get more for your money. You’re gonna get a lot of crap that you could sell for $150, maybe $200 on its own,” Councell said. “People are gonna buy the $400 unit and if they don’t, they’re idiots.”

He said he’ll buy the Xbox 360 premium pack when he has the money, hopefully by spring.

“I don’t care about the price tag. Gaming has no price here,” he said, gesturing to his heart and grinning.

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