Less than three years ago, Microsoft launched the Xbox One at $500. Ahead of its first major refresh, the company has cut the price on the existing bulky model to just $249. That’s a significant drop for the platform just a few months after its last round of price cuts, and it makes the Xbox One a compelling option for the right kind of customer.
While this is hardly the first time Microsoft has performed a midstream refresh, these kinds of price cuts are unprecedented, particularly on this kind of timeline. The Xbox 360 debuted in two configurations: A $399 Premium system with a 20GB HDD and a $299 “Core” system with no internal storage at $299. Microsoft introduced and end-of-life’d a number of Xbox 360 SKUs over the system’s lifetime, but never slashed prices this deeply — the closest it came was with the Xbox 360 Arcade, which launched in October 2007 at $279 and was discontinued in June 2010 with a final price of $150.
Slashing prices this quickly — this is the Xbox One’s third price cut since E3 — is probably a sign that Microsoft wants to clear the SKU out and rapidly refill it from the upcoming Xbox One S, an updated platform with 4K output support and high dynamic range display support, as well with a 2TB HDD and a $399 SKU price. A 1TB and 500GB version of the console will be available for $349 and $299 respectively.
I’m a PC gamer, not a console aficionado, but the original Xbox One is pretty darn attractive at just $250. It’s now cheaper than the Wii U, yet significantly more powerful than that system. While it’s not as fast as the PlayStation 4, there’s a solid library of titles available for the Xbox One, and a fairly extensive group of Xbox 360 games available through emulation. Reports on the quality of that emulation have come back positive as well.
When Microsoft and Sony launched the Xbox One and PS4 at $400, there was some debate about whether or not you could match or exceed their performance with equivalent PC hardware. Granted, a few years has passed since then, but the $250 price point obviates the debate. If all you need is a new GPU, yes, you can easily beat the Xbox One — AMD’s RX 480 is available starting at $200, while the GTX 1060 is $249.
If you need a new system, or even a new CPU, motherboard, and graphics card, there’s no way to pick up all three components new for the cost of an Xbox One. As an entry-level gaming system, in fact, it’s hard to argue against the platform — and it comes with features that an entry-level gaming PC wouldn’t necessarily have, like the ability to stream titles from the Xbox to any compatible PC in the house.
The flip side to this is that the Xbox One’s shelf life isn’t a sure thing. Microsoft will move to the Xbox One Scorpio by Christmas 2017, and it hasn’t spelled out its backwards compatibility plans. Presumably the company will keep backwards-compatibility as a top priority, but if it plans to leap over Sony and push next-generation hardware it may be tempted to allow titles to target Scorpio as a baseline platform.
While the $249 price doesn’t include the monthly cost of Xbox Live, it’s hard to argue with that price tag for an entry-level gaming box. So long as you know what you’re buying, it’s an attractive option. It’s not clear yet what the trade-in / trade-up value of future Xbox One’s will be when Scorpio finally launches, so keep that in mind when evaluating the console.