Microsoft: Xbox 360 Price Drop Timing Coincidental

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Welcome to the day after Microsoft lowered the price on its $300 Xbox 360 Elite, wrinkling its brow and lowering its horns to meet Sony's slimmer, $100 cheaper PlayStation 3 in battle. While the incidentals differ between the two, we've officially entered the melee phase of the campaign. The riders are off their horses, lances in the mud, swords drawn, endorsement-and-feature-laden tabards flapping. Welcome to the first day of the headiest holiday game sales season in years.

Microsoft's director of product management for Xbox Live Aaron Greenberg is doing his best to dismiss assumptions that the Xbox 360's price drop was reactionary. He's popped up in several locations in the last 24 hours claiming the timing of the 360's price drop was simply "coincidental."

I don't doubt him. It's that time of year, and getting out in front of the holiday action is essential. In a few weeks, the kids are back in school. Before you know it, the leaves will be turning and we'll be talking Halo 3: ODST, Gran Turismo PSP, Sony's PSP Go, Uncharted 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Modern Warfare 2.

But don't think for a minute Microsoft and Sony aren't eyeing each other like tomb raiders squaring off over the Holy Grail. The analysts haven't weighed in yet, but I'm betting they'll mark this holiday season as pivotal. Will Sony bite back into Microsoft's lead? Will Microsoft pull away permanently? Will Nintendo maintain its pole position? Or are its halcyon days finally over? Stand back, because the meaningless rhetoric (but correspondingly meaningful sales deals) could be explosive.

That's good news, because it means we're finally well enough along that these systems are becoming affordable. Sony's PlayStation 3 started off at nigh 3DO price levels, something I think we can all agree at this point was a terrible starter move. And Microsoft...let's just say I'm amazed that peripherals like a $100 802.11g adapter and $150 120GB hard drive upgrade haven't incited a Thermidorian Reaction. However cynical it sounds, you do have to admire the latter for getting its "modular" medicine down our throats with spoonfuls of marketing sugar.

Where to next? After I trot out an updated price guide, it's back to games and services. The PlayStation 3 may be slimmer, and at $300, the Xbox 360 Elite may be "eliter," but in the end, we play games, not boxes.

Follow me on Twitter @game_on.

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