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These days, you don’t just need video game console to play the coolest games; you need something potentially even more compelling: a hard drive. This week, Sony Computer Entertainment of America shipped Square Enix’s epic online game, Final Fantasy XI, which comes bundled on a 40 gig hard drive. The cost: $99 versus the typical $50. FFXI will milk the drive by incorporating downloadable content into the action. Microsoft, of course, has featured a hard drive since the inception of the Xbox game system. But Sony’s foray into this territory makes the meta-game between the rival companies all the more interesting.

Now that video game consoles have both online connectivity and hard drives, why not try to inject some of the lifeblood of computer gaming: such as user-made modifications. So-called “mods” of games like Half-Life and Quake III have spawned some of the most passionate fan-bases around, dramatically extending shelf lives and breeding the next generation of game makers too. By empowering console gamers with some kind of mod-making ability–even a keyboard-free, training-wheels version–Sony and Microsoft would surely reap the rewards.

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