Confirming persistent rumors, Microsoft today announced that it was slashing the price of its most expensive Xbox 360 video game console, the Xbox 360 Elite, by $100 to $299.99 in the United States. The 25 percent price reduction means that Microsoft's most expensive console remains at the same price level as Sony's least-expensive PlayStation 3.

Microsoft also cut the price of the mid-level Xbox 360 (sometimes erroneously referred to as the Xbox 360 "Pro," even by Microsoft) by $50, from $299 to $249.99. The low-end Xbox 360 Arcade remains at the $199.99 price point. Microsoft confirmed that the "Pro" model is being phased out, so its pricing is "while supplies last."

The price drops, while welcome, are also somewhat illusionary. Both systems come with new packaging, and in the case of the Xbox 360 Elite, Microsoft is leaving out the high-definition HDMI and component cables that were previously included. Purchasing an HD cable from Microsoft will wipe out $40 to $50 of the cost-savings. Additionally, no Xbox 360 consoles include wireless networking capabilities, like the PS3. Purchasing an adapter from Microsoft costs, you guessed it, $100.

Still, the price cuts should be enough to stave off sales advances from Sony's PS3, which remains the most expensive console on the market. Sony has trailed somewhat behind the Xbox 360, and dramatically behind the market-leading Nintendo Wii, since its introduction two years ago. Nintendo's console remains at $250, and the company says it continues to have no plans for a price cut.

The new Xbox 360 prices are effective beginning tomorrow.

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