XBox 360 hits store shelves

The latest advancement in video game technology has arrived, but college students may have a tough time getting their hands on it.

On Nov. 22, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 gaming console to enormous international fanfare. Many stores opened their doors at midnight the day of the release to distribute the first editions to customers lined up outside.

In what industry analysts expect to be a big year for technology sales, the Xbox 360 is widely considered to be one of the hottest items of the holiday season. Major retailers across the country quickly sold out their first shipments, leaving many buyers waiting for the next batch to arrive in January.

Arriving four years after the original Xbox model, the Xbox 360 offers more in the way of online features and game enhancements. The new version allows gamers to create a personal profile for online gaming that includes statistics and other information, and lets users talk to fellow players through voice chat.

The system also features the ability to download upgrades or content extensions for many games. Moreover, gamers can personalize their console with changeable faceplates and by altering screen visuals in the same way a PC user can change his or her desktop settings.

Yet with the high demand for the Xbox 360 has also come some difficulties. Despite quick sales, enthusiasm over the system’s release has been somewhat dampened by limited supplies and complaints about price-gouging.

Just hours after the Xbox 360 hit the shelves, stories began surfacing on the Web of retailers bundling the console with other expensive equipment in violation of company policies.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that buyers at one area Best Buy store in were required to purchase up to $400 in nonrefundable merchandise on top of the cost of the system. Best Buy acknowledged that some stores had acted improperly and assured the merchandise could be returned.

Moreover, with the system out of stock at nearly all licensed retailers, buyers have been met with sticker shock on the open market. Auctions for the Xbox 360 have been posted on eBay with initial asking prices of more than $10,000, with several sellers promising to donate the proceeds to various charities.

The Xbox 360 is the first release in what is considered the next generation of video game consoles. With rival systems from Sony and Nintendo not slated for release until 2006, Microsoft is hoping the early release will give them an edge in the video game market to which the company is a relative newcomer.

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