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Microsoft today announced a new piece of Xbox hardware that could make Xbox 360 games better, in the long run. But don’t look for it in stores.

It’s a new version of the Xbox Development Kit (XDK) that outside developers use to create games for the console. Microsoft, competing with Sony’s PlayStation 3 for the attention of those developers, made a series of changes designed to boost the performance of the XDK while reducing the cost.

One of the biggest changes: A new, optional “Sidecar” attachment for debugging and disc emulation. Here’s how the company explains the approach:

Not all members of a development team need these capabilities, so this new Sidecar option offers greater flexibility for studios. The Sidecar can be shared among multiple XDK consoles, removing the need to license additional higher cost debugging consoles. These changes will reduce the overall price to create, test, debug, and release an Xbox 360 or Xbox LIVE Arcade game.

Apart from the introduction of the Sidecar, Microsoft is doubling the built-in system memory to 1 GB, boosting the size of the hard drive and making the unit smaller than in the past, for a lower price. That price is a mystery, at least officially, although past rumors put the previous price of an XDK in the realm of $10,000, compared with a reported $2,000 for a PS3 dev kit.

Microsoft says the price of the new XDK is “significantly reduced” from its previous level.

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