Microsoft tries to boost sales with price cut for Xbox 360

Getting your Xbox fix just got cheaper.

On Friday, Microsoft lowered the price of its Xbox 360 game consoles. You can now buy the 360 Arcade version for $199.99, $80 cheaper than before and $50 cheaper than Nintendo's still-red-hot-selling Wii; a 360 with a 60-gigabyte hard drive will sell for $300 – down from $350 – and the “Elite” version will sell for $400, also $50 less than before.

Microsoft has sold more than 20 million Xbox 360s since the system debuted in November 2005. By comparison, Sony has sold more than 14million PS3s and Nintendo has sold nearly 30 million Wiis since those systems debuted in November 2006.

Xbox sales lagged behind the other two consoles for June and July, according to the NPD Group, which tracks the industry. In July, for example, Nintendo sold 550,000 Wiis, Sony sold 224,000 PS3s and Microsoft moved 204,000 Xbox consoles.

But Microsoft officials didn't see the recent price reductions as a Wii-killer.

“The fact that we're now cheaper than the Wii will change the marketplace, but we really believe that the Wii and the Xbox 360 are more complementary,” said Xbox project developer Aaron Greenberg. “We don't see people going into stores trying to decide between a Wii and an Xbox 360. We see that happening much more with the 360 and the PlayStation 3.”

Microsoft has made these moves, many industry insiders believe, to try to stem any momentum Sony might gain from a strong holiday slate of PS3-exclusive releases, including “Little Big Planet” and “Resistance 2.” The PS3, which includes a Blu-Ray DVD player, retails for $400.

News and notes

Sony debuted a new 160GB PS3 at the Games Convention in Germany last week. The new PS3 will cost $500 and has twice the storage of the current top-end model. Sony also debuted a new PlayStation Portable with a new LCD screen and built-in microphone, plus a new PS3 wireless keypad.

Potential hit alert: “Namco Bandai's Active Life: Outdoor Challenge” hits the Nintendo Wii on Tuesday. It'll come with an original mat controller that allows gamers to participate in 15 different events using their whole bodies. The mat allows you to use your hands and feet in conjunction with the Wii Remote.

Aspyr Media has shipped “futureU,” which is designed to complement traditional SAT study methods. Its minigames fall into three categories: reading (vocabulary, main idea identification, themes and arguments), writing (passive voice, run-on sentences, misplaced modifiers, etc.), and math (algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, and more). “futureU,” for the PC and Mac, costs $39.

A Bluetooth headset for the PS3 will bow on Oct. 14. It'll be bundled initially with “SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals Confrontation” ($59.99), and will later be a standalone peripheral for $49.99. On future games, gamers will be able to direct computer characters with voice commands. The headset will be compatible with other Bluetooth devices and can act as a desktop microphone while charging.