I’m still trying to decide whether the mad scramble for Xbox 360 consoles is the result of overwhelming demand (and the growth of the video games) or if it is a masterfully contrived publicity stunt by the ever-slick Microsoft marketing machine. Redmond insider Mary Jo Foley appears to sniff a bit of a chicanery. Of course, Microsoft marketing wonk Pete Moore denied a conspiracy in published reports today.

I don’t think the conspiracy is about purposefully throttling back the supply of Xbox 360 consoles in order to get a bunch of free press. I think the true conspiracy is that Microsoft wanted to get the Xbox 360 out before the holiday season. Many months ago, they decided that however many they had ready on November 22, that was the number they would go to market with. For their strategy, it was apparently more important to be a first mover in next-gen gaming than to have a large supply of consoles ready at retailers at the time of the launch.

There are now rumors that many retailers may not have more 360s until January. If that turns out to be true, this strategy could turn eager customers into disenchanted customers, especially if the reviews of the Xbox 360 and its games turn out to be lukewarm.

Also, check out TechRepublic’s gallery of the rush for Xbox 360 at Best Buy and the sold out signs that many people encountered at other retailers.