Is There a Mini Xbox on the Way?

The Xbox 360 has become a central part of home entertainment, with Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and TV and movie downloads added to the video game mix. And, at less than $250, it’s also pretty affordable.

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But the Xbox 360 is about to be phased out by a new Xbox 720, which probably won’t be so cheap out of the gate. After all, the Xbox 360 cost more than $400 when it launched.

Because few non-gamers will want to spend so much money on a console, Microsoft will reportedly be offering a “low-cost,” Windows 8-based alternative to the Xbox 720 that won’t play typical Xbox games.

In essence, it will be a mini Xbox capable of downloading and playing television shows and movies, streaming video via Hulu and Netflix, and offering casual gamers cheap downloadable games similar to Limbo or Braid.

But you won’t be playing Crysis 4 or Halo 5 on this thing.

Right now, this mini Xbox is only a rumor. When asked about the report, Microsoft offered Gamespot this vague statement:

“Xbox 360 has found new ways to extend the console lifecycle by introducing controller-free experiences with Kinect and re-inventing the console with a new dashboard and new entertainment content partnerships … We are always thinking about what is next for our platform and how to continue to defy the lifecycle convention.”

If the rumors are true, expect to see the mini Xbox ship alongside the Xbox 720 sometime in 2013.

The idea of a mini Xbox makes sense. Unlike the original Xbox, the Xbox 360 has become so much more than just a video game console. As it transitions to a new and much more expensive model, Microsoft needs to offer a cheap alternative to remain competitive with streaming video products like D-Link’s sub-$200 BoxeeTV and the sub-$100 Roku.

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