With E3 just around the corner, there has been a lot of rumors on the internet that Microsoft may be announcing an Xbox 360 Slim during their press conference. There have been reports of leaked images which show redesigned internals and speculation that a 360 Slim would be able to better compete with the PlayStation 3 Slim which launched last summer and lead to a significant boost in PS3 console sales. There are several reasons why a 360 Slim wouldn’t be a good idea, however, and Microsoft would be making a mistake if they announced one at E3 this year.
The first reason the 360 Slim isn’t a good idea is that it could lead to another wave of broken console reports. Microsoft seems to have finally fixed the Red Ring of Death problem. After releasing the new “Jasper” chipset in 2008, reports of dead 360’s went down drastically and now 360 owners no longer have to constantly worry about their console abruptly dying on them. Typically, slim SKU’s of consoles tend to have a higher failure rate than the original “fat” counterparts. The PS3 Slim hasn’t had many issues but this was clearly seen when the PS2 Slim first launched and was plagued by problems. The Slim was prone to overheat and developed disk read errors after prolonged usage. Sony was able to fix these problems within a year of releasing the slimline model, but Microsoft doesn’t need to deal with overheating problems again. It took years for them to get the hardware right in a “fat” version and Microsoft Gaming Division lost quite a bit of money when they extended the console’s warranty to three years for free. The Xbox 360 is notorious for running “as loud as a jet plane.” Would the Slim be even noisier as it’s reduced components would have to work harder? There is no telling what problems could be caused by actually reducing the internals to make the 360 Slim. Just the very idea that a Slim 360 might be unreliable would probably scare some people away and cause it to not sell as well.
Another reason that a 360 Slim would be a bad idea is hard drive compatibility. Will current Xbox 360 hard drives be able to fit on the Slim model? If so, then the console wouldn’t be very slim as the hard drives fit the width of the “fat” consoles perfectly. MS could make new hard drives to specifically fit the Slim but then they wouldn’t be able to fit older consoles and would most likely be seen as an effort to milk consumers by forcing them to buy a second hard drive. Perhaps the Slim would not support a hard drive at all but instead use old-fashioned memory cards. If that were the case nobody would buy it and it would just be a waste of money to manufacture such a SKU.
If they are planning to release a Slim model, Microsoft would be making a mistake by announcing it at E3 this year because they should focus on their efforts on Project Natal, not promoting a re-designed box for the 360. The success of Natal is going to be crucial to the success of the Xbox 360 in the coming years and Microsoft has invested a lot of time and money in the technology. If they do announce a Slim, and it does end up being plagued by problems, that is going to hurt them even more by forcing them to shift their focus away from Natal.