WSJ confirms $299 Xbox 360

Citing anonymous sources, <em>The Wall Street Journal</em> says Microsoft will drop the price of its midrange Pro unit by $50 as early as Sunday.

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After weeks of rumors and leaked retailer adverts, it now appears as if official confirmation has arrived for a $50 price cut to Microsoft's Xbox 360 Pro. Citing "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will lower the price of its 20GB Pro unit from $349 to $299 as early as Sunday, July 13. It could also be announced as part of Microsoft's presentation at the E3 Media & Business Summit on the morning of Monday, July 14.

The timing of Microsoft's announcement comes as the Xbox 360 is lagging behind in the console race. Whereas the console thumped the PlayStation 3 in terms of sales in 2007, Microsoft has lost ground to Sony in 2008. Besides the launch of high-profile PS3-exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4, Sony's console has benefited from Blu-ray Disc's victory in the high-definition video format war following the collapse of the Microsoft-supported HD-DVD. Another major factor is last fall's introduction of the $399 40GB PS3, which put the console in the same ballpark as Microsoft's 20GB then-$349 Xbox 360 Pro.

Currently, the Pro--which comes equipped with a 20GB hard drive, wireless controller, and wired headset--carries a suggested retail price of $349, $70 more than the bare-bones Arcade unit and $100 less than the HDMI-equipped 120GB Elite model. This most recent price cut will be the second time Microsoft has reduced the price on its flagship console since it first hit retail shelves a full year ahead of its competition in 2005. Following a similar deluge of leaks in August 2007, Microsoft slashed $30 from the Elite, $50 from the Pro (then Premium), and $20 from the discontinued Core model.

The WSJ did not indicate whether Microsoft has similar price reduction plans for the Arcade and Elite models, nor did it address the issue of the console's hard drive. Last week, a leaked memo allegedly sent to GameStop and Blockbuster employees indicated that Microsoft would begin phasing out the 20GB hard drive. In its place, the company would start including a 60GB device with new Xbox 360 Pros later this month and in October would be offering a stand-alone 60GB accessory for $99. The memo also indicated that Microsoft would drop the current price of the stand-alone 120GB hard drive to $150 in September.

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