Xbox 360 HD DVD to Launch Nov. 22 in Japan

Sensing a real possibility of dethroning Sony as the leading game console manufacturer worldwide, Microsoft has accelerated its marketing effort for Xbox 360. At the Tokyo Game Show this morning, the company announced it is increasing the target number of game titles available in Japan for the holiday season from 80 to 110, and will premiere the 360's HD DVD player accessory there on November 22 for about USD$169.

At current exchange rates, the 20 GB Xbox 360 Core System sells for about $339 in Japan; in the US, its price averages about $300. If Microsoft's suggested retail price for the HD DVD add-on follows the same price scale, the company could be planning to market Xbox 360 plus HD DVD in the U.S. for a combined price of under $500.

With the added bonus of 1080p (progressive scan) output for the accessory rather than the 1080i (interlaced) typical of first-generation HD DVD players, Microsoft may considerably undercut Sony's Blu-ray-based PlayStation 3 when it becomes available.

The 1080p capability will be made available to current Xbox 360 owners worldwide "later this year," Microsoft said, by way of a fall software update. Presumably free, it will retrofit consoles so that current games can also be displayed in 1080p resolution on a high-definition display.

Prior to the show, Sony informed the games press to expect to play up to 27 PlayStation 3 games at its corporate booth, while witnessing an additional 35 titles still in development, through video clips only.

With the demise of the E3 Expo in the U.S., TGS now has undisputed claim to the title of largest electronic gaming show worldwide, although a February show in Taipei tries to wrest claim even to the Tokyo show's initials. The Japanese press had billed this year's event as a "showdown" between PS3 and Nintendo's mold-breaking Wii console.

After today, the press there may want to go back and add one more contender. Top executives from both Sony Computer Entertainment and Nintendo are scheduled to deliver keynote speeches, which are typically considered show openers; today, they could be interpreted as responses to a pre-emptive strike.

Microsoft also confirmed it is working on a massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the 360 console, tentatively entitled "Infinite Undiscovery." No other details have been mentioned thus far, although members of the press are likely to get pictures over the next few days.

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