NEW YORK – The buzz started six months ago.
There's Bill Gates on the cover of Time magazine in May, with a glowing green-and-white machine. "Inside Bill's New Xbox" it screamed.
Since then, the Xbox 360 — a sequel to Microsoft's Xbox video-game unit — has been the subject of breathless profiles, splashy television ads and Internet gossip.
The first shipments, due Tuesday, are already sold out. Analysts are calling it this year's hot holiday gift.
Don't believe the hype — and don't buy the Xbox 360.
Oh, it's an amazing console, don't get us wrong. Plugged into a high-definition television set with a booming sound system, it's amazing, a wonderland of sights and music.
But that's the part of the problem. To get the full Xbox 360 experience, you need to spend hundreds — perhaps thousands — of dollars. All that for a machine that won't play the hot games this season, like "Star Wars: Battlefront II" and "50 Cent: Bulletproof."
Save your cash, and skip the frenzy. Here are five reasons you should say "game over" to the Xbox 360:
Price — The Xbox 360 comes in two versions: the hard drive-less "core" system for $299 and the premium package for $399. But those who buy the lower-cost version are in for a surprise — they won't be able to play any of the Xbox games they already own.
"A lot of parents who go out and buy the $300 system, because they can't afford the $400 system, will have kids who aren't going to able to play 'Halo' or 'Halo 2' because backwards compatibility is going to be on the hard drive," says Brian D. Crecente, editor of kotaku.com, a gaming news blog.
Lack of games — Microsoft has announced there will be 200 backwards-compatible games (including "Forza Motorsport" and "Halo 2"), but only 19 launch titles for the 360. Only a handful are exclusives.
And popular new games, like "50 Cent: Bulletproof" and "The Warriors," won't play on the 360 at all.
Douglass Perry, editor in chief of the Xbox channel on IGN, says, "If you can wait, the second wave of games [due next year] are going to give developers the chance to really show us next-generation gaming in the truest sense."
No competition — Sure, you could rush out and drop hundreds on the 360, but we have no idea what the next-gen PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution are going to be capable of doing. Both of those systems are due next year, and will surely spark a mini-price war with the Xbox 360.
Hidden costs — Right now, the Xbox 360's stunning graphics ability is its biggest selling point, but to take advantage of it, you'll need to invest in a high-definition TV — tacking on an extra couple hundred bucks, at least.
"We've all heard Microsoft basically saying that if you want to get an HDTV, the 360 is going to be the thing that makes you go out and get one," Crecente says. "Most of us dismissed that, but I swear, it's like they designed the 360 to make your TV look bad if you don't have HDTV."
And if you add peripherals, such as the ability to play games over the Internet, the Xbox 360 costs nearly $600!
You could take the money you saved and put it towards buying all the systems, plus a whole bunch of great games like "The Warriors."
Although he's a firm believer in the Xbox 360, Perry says, "If you buy a PS2 or an Xbox now, you're buying a system at the end of its lifespan, when some of the best games are showing up."