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Game On Dude! 29 August 2002 Edition
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Although undoubtedly feeling like the youngest child in the family (the one that always ends up getting hand-me-downs) local gamers are probably eagerly awaiting the release of the Microsoft Xbox.

I see that a number of local journos have even received units to have a play with -- alas, nothing has turned up in my mailbox (I wonder why? :-)

Surprisingly, the local price for the Xbox will be almost identical to that being charged in the UK and Europe and very little more than the US$199 list price in the USA. Of course this isn't so much attributable to Microsoft as it is to Sony's agressive pricing for the PS2.

So who's going to lay out NZ$499 to buy an Xbox, and should you join the queue?

Well (as mentioned just moments ago) I can't provide any comment on the merits of the Xbox as a games console because I don't have one.

However, I'm sure that many of the real hard-core gamers will be lining up to buy them and more than a few homes will likely have a PS2 (or PS1) and an Xbox by the new year.

There can be no doubt also that more than a few Xboxes will be bought for hacking purposes.

A growing community of Xbox hackers has already dedicated itself to the task of "repurposing" the console -- turning it into a more general purpose computing device operating under Linux.

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    Given that Microsoft appear to be selling the Xbox at a price well below its cost of manufacture, perhaps the best thing all those anti-Microsoft zealots can do is buy a whole bunch of them.

    If/when the hackers manage to pull off their little plan, the Xbox will probably make a great firewall, rendering engine, budget PC, webserver, or just about anything else you can think of.

    The cheapest PC out there at the moment (sans monitor/keyboard) is still priced at nearly twice the Xbox -- so being able to transform these games consoles into something completely different would be a great achievement.

    Indeed, a good measure of success in this endeavour has already been achieved and the keen hacker can now boot up their Xbox with the world's most popular non-Microsoft OS.

    There are also an increasing number of websites popping up that are dedicated to the subject of Xbox hacking.

    So, even if your not a keen gamer, you may find that there's an Xbox in your future.

    I suspect Microsoft also realise this and it won't be long (IMHO) before we see new versions of the Xbox being released. These new units will likely incorporate web browsing, some Tivo-like functions, etc -- turning the games console into more of an "appliance."

    So should you buy an Xbox now?

    Personally, I'd wait until after Christmas.

    In fact if you're like me, you reschedule Christmas to New Year's day so that you can buy all your gifts at a much lower price in the sales that inevitably start on Boxing Day. You'd be surprised how much you can save by doing this.

    By swapping New Year's and Christmas, you still get to have a lot of fun and a decent party on December 25, while being able to afford a much bigger pile of presies on Jan 1. Try it -- you'll like it!

    A note to Microsoft: Was it something I've said? :-)

    Late Update: It seems I *am* on Microsoft's list of people who will be given a chance to check out the Xbox and I've been told that it should arrive in a couple of weeks. I'll keep readers informed.

    Have your say.

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