So I won an Xbox 360 last week in a contest. Pepsi runs this contest every year. When you buy Pepsi products, the packaging contains a PIN that you enter online. They do a draw every hour for thirty or so straight days. The more PINs you enter for each draw, the greater your chances of winning. The neat thing is you don’t have to buy Pepsi products to get a PIN. Using this link, you can request a single PIN. You can get lots of free PINs in this manner.

If this all sounds strangely familiar, it’s because back in 2004, I wasted about half an hour a day for almost two weeks trying to win a prize. I accumulated close to 100 PINs and entered them into a single draw. I lost. It was devastating. My friend Sarah had the same thing happen to her. I skipped out on the 2005 contest.

Long story short, I grabbed a few PINs this year and completely lucked out. My Xbox 360 arrives later this month.

While winning a prize that retails for $570.00 is nice, I soon realized this “free” prize is going to wind up costing me money. The first thing is I have nothing decent to play the 360 on. All the TVs in my home are not HDTV compliant. They are of a decent size but each one has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Look, I don’t want to sound whiny or anything but next-gen consoles are designed to be played on high-resolution, widescreen displays. This means that optimally, the aspect ratio should be 16:9 or 2.35:1 if you’re so inclined.

Second, now I gotta buy 360 games. This is almost unavoidable but I can borrow games for free at work through the IRC. Also buying used games at rental chains is a great way to save money. A co-worker has let me know he’ll lend me a few of his games too. Nice!

Third, now I’m tempted to buy 360 accessories. The prize pack only comes with one controller but it’s always handy to keep another controller around if Jennifer Love-Hewitt wants to drop by to play some Halo with me. Controllers start at $50!

The first problem is something that has to be dealt with. It’s a waste to play the 360 on regular CRT TVs. Unfortunately, LCD TVs are still pretty expensive. Even at 32″, an HDTV ready LCD TV is over $1000. There are some priced at exactly $1000. Still, I wasn’t expecting to be dropping a cool G on a TV anytime soon.

The solution I’m probably going to go with is to buy a widescreen LCD computer monitor. These things aren’t exactly the same as HDTVs but they support high resolutions and are much more cost effective than the alternative. I can snag a 22″ widescreen LCD for under $400. I can also use it for my computer so I get an upgrade that way as well. A single purchase that benefits two different systems in a bonus in my books.

I’ll try to borrow as many games as I can and buy used ones. Maybe I can buy a used controller too.

A second solution also exists. I could just sell the damn thing for $500. I was thinking of buying a new computer before I entered the contest. Traditionally, I’ve been more of a PC gamer than a console one. If I sold the 360, it’d make my new PC quite cheap to buy. Still, the 360 has impressed me with its features and online service.

I’ll most likely keep it.

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