Xbox Live Marketplace, Arcade pricing finalized

Microsoft's online store will sell themes for $1.87, pictures for $0.25-$0.75, Arcade games for $5-$15.

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With exactly one week to go until the Xbox 360 launches, Microsoft has finalized the pricing structure for the Xbox Live Marketplace. Going all the way back to the 2005 Game Developers Conference, Microsoft has hyped this new service, which will allow gamers to buy online items via "microtransactions." These small purchases will also provide new revenue streams, theoretically making the Xbox 360 more attractive to publishers and developers than its rivals.

But while online retailers have been selling cards of 1,600 Xbox Live Marketplace points for $19.99 for weeks, it was unclear exactly what 360 owners could get for their money. Today, Microsoft finalized the pricing structure for the content available on the Marketplace, which can be accessed by subscribers to both the free Xbox Live Silver and the paid Xbox Live Gold services.

Starting November 22, the Xbox Live Marketplace will hawk both 360 dashboard personalization features and Xbox Live Arcade games. Using the exchange rate of 1 point = $0.01249375 set by the $19.99, 1,600-point card, the cost of 360 personalization features seems slightly higher than the nickel-and-dime price points anticipated by many.

Pictures for 360 gamer profiles will begin at 20 points ($0.25) for games such as Amped 3, Call of Duty 2, and Gun. However, gamers who want logos from their favorite NFL and FIFA teams on their profile will have to pay three times as much, or 60 points ($0.75) a pop. Madden NFL 06 will offer a collection of team-logo game pictures for 500 points ($6.25), while various non-sports titles will feature bundles of five pictures for 80 points ($1).

Gamers who want to personalize their entire 360 dashboard will have to pay a premium for the privilege. Game-specific dashboard themes will cost 150 points ($1.87) each, as will those sporting the logo of a single NFL or FIFA team.

Also on Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace menu was a "Winter Warrior Pack" for Kameo: Elements of Power. Though the title sounds like some sort of content update, the price--just 200 points ($2.49)--is more in line with some sort of personalization feature. Requests for clarification from Microsoft were unanswered as of press time.

Microsoft also revealed a three-tiered pricing plan for Xbox Live Arcade games. As of November 22, the service will offer eight 400-point ($5) games, including traditional tabletop games (Hardwood Backgammon, Hardwood Hearts, Hardwood Spades), arcade classics (Gauntlet, Joust, Robotron 2084, Smash TV), and others (Geometry Wars Evolved). For 800 points ($10), gamers can buy the newer titles Bejeweled 2, Mutant Storm Reloaded, Outpost Kaloki, Wik: Fable of Souls, and Zuma. Only one game, PixelStorm's Bankshot Billiards 2, will sell at the highest XBL Arcade price level of 1,200 points ($15). To download any of the Xbox Live Arcade games or Xbox Live Marketplace content, players must have an Xbox 360 equipped with a hard drive.

Not everything available on Xbox Live Marketplace will cost money. Microsoft will offer trailers for all launch games for free, along with four demos (FIFA Soccer 06, Kameo: Elements of Power, Need for Speed Most Wanted, and Peter Jackson's King Kong). Also, each 360 hard drive comes with the XBL Arcade game Hexic preinstalled for free.

Microsoft also said a variety of other content, including high-definition movie trailers (Aeon Flux and Pulse) and music videos (Franz Ferdinand's "Do You Want To" and Audioslave's "Show Me How to Live") will be downloadable via the Xbox Live Marketplace. The service will also offer a variety of gamer-specific content, including gamer pictures and desktop themes from popular online comic-fan site Penny Arcade, as well as selections from the Red vs. Blue Halo machinima series. No pricing for any of the non-game-related content was announced.

A complete list of Xbox Live Marketplace and Xbox Live Arcade prices is below:

XBOX LIVE MARKETPLACE

Amped 3 (2K Sports)
--Game Trailer (free)
--10 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

Call of Duty 2 (Activision)
--Game Trailer (free)
--7 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--2 Gamer Picture Bundles (40-80 points each = $0.50-$1 each)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

Condemned: Criminal Origins (Sega)
--Game Trailer (free)
--10 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

FIFA 06: Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup (Electronic Arts)
--Game Trailer (free)
--EA Sports Trailer (free)
--Game Demo (free)
--FIFA Team Logo Gamer Pictures (60 points each = $0.75 each)
--FIFA Team Logo Themes (150 points each = $1.87 each)

Gun (Activision)
--Game Trailer (free)
--5 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--1 Gamer Picture Bundle (80 points = $1)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

Kameo: Elements of Power (Microsoft Game Studios/Rare)
--Winter Warrior Pack (200 points = $2.50)
--Game Trailer (free)
--Game Demo (free)
--4 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--2 Gamer Picture 5-pack Bundles (80 points each = $1 each)
--7 Themes (150 points each = $1.87 each)

Madden NFL 06 (Electronic Arts)
--Game Trailer (free)
--EA Sports Trailer (free)
--NFL Logo Gamer Pictures (60 points each = $0.75 each)
--Collection of All NFL Logo Gamer Pictures (500 points = $6.25)
--NFL Logo Themes (150 points each = $1.87 each)

NBA 2K6 (2K Sports)
--Game Trailer (free)

NBA Live 06 (Electronic Arts)
--EA Sports Trailer (free)
--Game Demo (free)

Need for Speed Most Wanted (Electronic Arts)
--Game Trailer (free)
--Game Demo (free)

NHL 2K6 (2K Sports)
--Game Trailer (free)

Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft Game Studios / Rare)
--Game Trailer (free)

Peter Jackson’s King Kong (Ubisoft)
--Game Demo (free)
--Game Trailer (free)

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Microsoft Game Studios and Bizarre Creations Ltd.)
--Game Trailer (free)

Quake 4 (Activision / id / Raven)
--Game Trailer (free)
--7 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 (Electronic Arts)
--EA Sports Trailer (free)

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland (Activision)
--Game Trailer (free)
--10 Gamer Pictures (20 points each = $0.25 each)
--1 Gamer Picture Bundle (80 points = $1)
--1 Theme (150 points = $1.87)

XBOX LIVE ARCADE

--Bankshot Billiards 2 (1,200 points = $12.50)--PixelStorm
--Bejeweled 2 (800 points = $10)--Popcap
--Gauntlet (400 points = $5)--Midway
--Geometry Wars Evolved (400 points = $5)--Bizzare Creations
--Hardwood Backgammon (400 points = $5)--Silver Creek
--Hardwood Hearts (400 points = $5)--Silver Creek
--Hardwood Spades (400 points = $5)--Silver Creek
--Joust (400 points = $5)--Midway Home Entertainment
--Mutant Storm Reloaded (800 points = $10)--PomPom
--Outpost Kaloki (800 points = $10)--Wahoo
--Robotron 2084 (400 points = $5)--Midway
--Smash TV (400 points = $5)--Midway
--Wik: Fable of Souls (800 points = $10--Reflexive
--Zuma (800 points = $10)--Popcap

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