When the hard-drive-less Xbox 360 Arcade succeeded the Core model last year, it initially came with a detachable, external 256MB memory card to store the New Xbox Experience firmware. Later models of the $199 console featured 256MB of internal flash memory attached to the newer-model "Jasper" motherboards, which were redesigned to be less susceptible to the hardware failures that prompted a billion-dollar warranty extension in 2007.
Now, it appears Microsoft has increased the Xbox 360's internal memory to 512MB. The new configuration surfaced on Xbox-Scene, a hardware site staffed by expert modders who regularly dissect the console with religious fervor. During one such virtual vivisection, one user noticed that the motherboard on a Japanese edition of the console manufactured on April 9, 2009, was sporting the larger memory size.
With Microsoft's game division struggling to eke out a profit, it seems curious that the company would increase the production cost of its console voluntarily. One factor for the change could be a mandatory increase dictated by the firmware file size necessary to operate the Xbox 360 dashboard, which was the reason for the installment of the flash memory in the first place. As announced at its E3 press conference, Microsoft is planning to add a variety of functionalities to the dashboard this year, including the integration of the social network Facebook, the omnipresent microblogging service Twitter, and the Internet radio service (and GameSpot sister site) Last.fm.
Another theory is that the increase may be paving the way for a firmware update needed to operate Project Natal (shown below), the motion-sensing peripheral unveiled at E3. Though project director Kudo Tsunoda made a point of saying the console would work with all past, current, and future Xbox 360s, he did not say whether or not older, hard-drive-less consoles would require a minimum amount of memory to do so.
[UPDATE] Though Microsoft had not commented before the publication of this story, reps from the software giant have now confirmed the 512MB 360 memory upgrade. "The change was made to offer consumers a bit more memory at the same low price so they can enjoy more experiences on Xbox Live," a rep told GameSpot.