360 peripherals in store, announced

Microsoft's PC/Xbox 360 controller now available; Joytech reveals racing wheel, control center, controller, faceplates.

The Xbox 360 is little more than a month away, and much of the focus of the media has been on the console's games. However, the new technology doesn't just mean more lustrous light blooms or sparkly new particle effects. A whole new line of peripherals is in line for the system, and some peripherals are already in stores.

Reports on the Web yesterday shocked gamers when it was revealed that some common folk already had their hands on an Xbox 360 controller. What's more, these controllers were purchased from regular retailers--no sneaking into media events and no nepotism necessary.

A controller for a system that pretty much doesn't exist yet--as the Xbox 360 will be available on November 22 in North America--would seem to be nothing more than a pretty package of buttons and wires. Turns out this "stick" is a cross-platform peripheral, which works on both the console and the PC.

"For the first time, gamers can simply unplug their controller from their Xbox 360 system and plug it in to their Windows XP-based PC," said Chris Donahue, director of the Windows gaming and graphics team at Microsoft. "This is a great breakthrough for the gaming industry, as we make it easier for developers to create multiplatform titles."

The Xbox 360 Controller for Windows from Microsoft is now available in stores for $39.99. To use the controller with a PC, users need only install a driver, which comes included in the box or can be downloaded from the Windows Update and Microsoft Hardware sites. However, it will be able to plug directly in to the 360 with no installation.

Joytech will also outfit the 360 with a line of launch peripherals. In addition to its own take on the console's controller, the company will also release faceplates, a racing wheel, and an A/V control center. The products are expected to be in stores this November in North America and Europe.

The Neo Se Controller ($29.99) is a wired controller complete with ergonomic design and a backlit Xbox Guide button for access to the 360's dash. The Nitro Racing Wheel ($79.99) features four wheel-mounted paddles, a sequential stick shift, and four levels of steering sensitivity. The Control Center ($99.99) keeps wires in order as a hub for audio and visual components. A backlit LCD screen shows which ports are in use, and a remote control allows for electronic switching from the couch. Joytech will also be releasing a number of faceplates for the Xbox 360 in single ($9.99) and double packs ($14.99).

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