On the cusp of the fourth holiday season of the Xbox 360, there has never been a better time to “jump in” and invest in Microsoft’s flagship console, according to Craig Flannagan, Xbox Product Manager with Xbox Canada.

GamingExcellence caught up with Craig, and in a detailed interview, Craig ran down many of the different reasons why he believes Xbox 360 should be the premiere video game system underneath your tree this Christmas.

“It’s shaping up to be a cool holiday season,” said Flannagan. “There’s never been a better time to own a 360 and it all starts at $199.” $199 gets you an arcade model 360 with a single wireless controller. If you want to bump up the features, an Elite 360 runs for $299, which includes a 120 GB Hard drive, copies of Lego Batman and Pure, and a slick black finish as opposed to the matte white of the arcade. Finally, there’s also a special edition Elite this holiday season only that includes a Call of Duty paintjob, two wireless controllers, a 250 GB hard drive, and a copy of Modern Warfare 2. This ultimate and limited edition Xbox will run for $399, and will not be on store shelves for long.

“We look at the offering and it gets really exciting and customers are seeing a lot of value from the games, entertainment and social aspects of the Xbox 360,” said Flannagan.

The first thing that Flannagan told us about was obviously, the games. “We’ve got a great lineup of games this holiday.” Titles such as Assassin’s Creed 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Forza Motorsport 3, and Halo 3: ODST, which Flannagan called “an amazing multiplayer game with an incredible campaign.”

Beyond the games, Microsoft has really upped the entertainment quotient of other aspects of the console in an attempt to make it the centrepiece of your living room according to Flannagan.

“Xbox Live is now the home of Zune Marketplace, which offers “HD movies and TV shows in 1080p resolution. Those are all streaming. With a push of a button you’re getting the highest in high definition,” said Flannagan. Shows on the service include The Office, Fringe, House, Gossip Girl, The Hills. The selection is always growing as well.

We here at GamingExcellence actually had a chance to put this new streaming technology through its paces at E3 a few months ago, and came away quite impressed with its ability to stream video quickly and efficiently. The service will run on any Xbox model, including the hard driveless Arcade model. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, the videos may start in standard definition before snapping into high definition once enough buffering has passed. If you just pause the video and wait a minute or two, you’ll get full 1080p from second one of the film/show.

“The service delivers the best quality that your connection can support,” said Flannagan. “1080p starts at 3 Mbits. The majority of Canadians with broadband can take advantage.”

The service also allows to rent and stream, or download to a hard drive.

Finally, Xbox has integrated itself fully with popular social networks Facebook and Twitter. Flannagan cited being able to view the photos on the big screen as the feature he’s most excited about, but users will also be able to sync their accounts to their achievements, and update their statuses. If you attach a chatpad to your controller, you’ll be off and running with being able to quickly type without relying on a clunky onscreen keyboard.

In the end, though, it all comes back down to games. Beyond the big holiday hits, Xbox will also be home to scintillating upcoming games like BioShock 2, Splinter Cell Conviction (which won our prestigious Overall Game of E3 award), and Alan Wake, all of which are due out in mere months right now.

In terms of value, Microsoft has really put together a collection of options and entertainment experiences that should appeal to any gamer and possibly beyond, and it’s all available this holiday season.