Microsoft is introducing an external high-definition DVD player for the Xbox 360 video game console to match the Blu-ray disc functions of Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 3. They are also set to bundle a version of Media Centre on the Xbox to allow entertainment and content management to be accessed via the device.
The rollout plans come as the company tries to shore up sales ahead of the arrival later this year of next-generation machines by its two top rivals — Sony and Nintendo.
The basic Xbox 360 doesn’t come with high-definition DVD capability. The new Microsoft peripheral, to be launched in Japan on November 22, is based on the HD DVD standard, a rival technology to the Blu-ray format Sony is using for the HD player built into its anxiously awaited upgrade to the PlayStation line.
The attachment will cost around A$300, bringing the combined cost of the basic Xbox 360 and the HD-DVD player to nearly the same price as that anticipated for the PlayStation 3 in Japan.
In choosing Japan for the launch of the HD-DVD add-on, Microsoft is testing a market that is one of the world’s biggest but holds a deep allegiance for to homegrown Sony. Microsoft has plans to release the HD-DVD elsewhere, but no specifics about other markets or timing were disclosed.
Microsoft has been looking for ways to boost sluggish sales in Japan. Earlier this month, the company’s Japanese unit said it was set to release a cheaper, bare-bones version of the Xbox 360 to boost flagging sales ahead of the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s new Wii system.
As of earlier this month, just 158,000 units of the Xbox 360 had been sold in Japan since its release late last year, according to Enterbrain, a market researcher. About 5 million units have been sold worldwide in the same time period.
Microsoft also said there will be 110 game titles available for the Xbox 360 in Japan by year’s end, addressing a common complaint by video fans who said PlayStation offered more choices.
Nintendo said last week its new Wii game console will arrive on schedule in the final quarter of the year, priced below both rivals, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.
The launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3, initially planned for earlier this year, has been postponed twice. A decision to delay PlayStation 3 in Europe for four months until March was announced earlier this month.
The PlayStation 3 will hit stores in Japan on November 11 and in the United States on November 17, but Sony now expects to ship only 2 million units by year’s end instead of 4 million as originally planned.