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Analysis: When will next-gen consoles be announced?

CVG uses insider reports and historical trends to forecast the unveilings of Sony and Microsoft's new consoles...

It's often said that a first impression is the most important one to make, and considering that Sony and Microsoft have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building their next generation systems, you can forgive both for taking extra time to ensure their reveals are handled as flawlessly as possible.

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The waiting is nearly over. Industry chatter has near-unanimously turned to what happens across the next five months - there is a collective understanding that the next PlayStation and the next Xbox will be revealed in June at the very latest.

But it will very likely be much sooner. CVG has been told by development sources connected to both the PlayStation and Xbox businesses that, in fact, both systems will be announced before E3.

'When' and 'how' are now the most important questions. CVG has examined the historical trends in console announcements and, with input from industry insiders, offers a forecast on what to expect in the next five months.

Further reading: Xbox 720 rumours | PlayStation 4 rumours


How to announce a games console

And what previous techniques tell us about the next six months

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Image: Kotaku

1) The E3 teaser

Practiced by • Sony (PlayStation 3, 2005) • Nintendo (Wii, 2004 and 2005)

It may come as something of a surprise to learn that very few modern games consoles have been officially announced first at E3. The ear-thumping industry event tends to be the place to expand on console plans - usually in a two-hour presentation - as opposed to briefly disclosing them.

One exception would be the Wii, which was first hinted at during E3 2004, then revealed for the first time at E3 2005 and fully demonstrated at the same event in 2006. The other exception is PS3, which was announced as a silver console with a boomerang controller at E3 2005, then fully demonstrated twelve months later.

Both Microsoft and Sony, however, no longer have the luxury of spreading announcements across two E3 events. These systems are competing to be released before Christmas, and certainly before E3 2014, so expect an official announcement prior to this year's event.


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2) The media leak / sudden press release

Practiced by • Sony (PS Vita, 2010) • Nintendo (Wii U, 2011) (3DS, 2010) (3DS XL, 2012)

In the pecking order of console reveals, the media leak is a platform holder's most feared and emotionally deflating. However, in the right hands it can generate an interest that some would say is even more effective than official media channels.

But not in Nintendo's case. Sony may have a garlanded reputation within media circles for its information leaks, but the house of Mario has in recent times performed even worse. The Wii U was leaked by a publishing executive to several media outlets in the same week (CVG being the first to reveal its touch-screen capabilities). In response, Nintendo published a letter to investors confirming that the rumours were true.

Such media handling has not always been Nintendo's forte. Last year, a insider tipped off Japan news site Nikkei about the 3DS XL. The paper revealed to the world that Nintendo was working on a new extra-large 3DS system, yet Nintendo suddenly implied the Nikkei story was not true, only to officially announce the system days later.

Most puzzling of all was the original 3DS announcement - an entirely new generation of console revealed via a brief press release. Though from the outside it seemed perplexingly low-key, rushed and mishandled, there appears to have been a logical explanation behind it. CVG understands that Sony was at the time developing prototype 3D technology for its PS Vita handheld, and when Nintendo discovered this, it decided to sacrifice flair and preparation to ensure it announced its own technology first.

With regards to the Next Xbox, further media leaks seem highly unlikely. As one insider revealed to us:

"When Microsoft wants to run a secret project, they divide it into tents, which are cross-discipline teams. The first you know of this is you're asked for a one-to-one webcam chat, where it's explained to you that it's pretty much Fight Club, and that you're not allowed to tell anyone that you've been talked to about "joining the tent".

"You sign a load of paperwork, and then afterwards they give you some indication of what the hell you'll be working on. The bit I find crazy is that you have to find time to work on the tent project yourself; your line manager isn't allowed to know what you're working on.

"Microsoft sends out a list of stock answers that you're allowed to give if your manager asks you where all your time is going, and a phone number to call if they don't believe you. If they call that, they'll get confirmation you're working on a project, but absolutely nothing more."

Meanwhile, Sony may consider itself lucky that there's such a great wash of unsubstantiated PS4 guesswork, because it means that credible information leaking out is being lost among the speculation.

PlayStation Orbis (it won't be called PS4) will be a PC-based console built upon a 'cloud-centric' service that cross-pollinates with PlayStation Mobile and PS Vita. It will not be backwards compatible and it might - but CVG isn't certain - block out used games. Whether other key details will be revealed prematurely is a matter for debate - CVG expects rumours to spiral out of control over the next few weeks, but the system will certainly be announced before production begins. Don't expect hardware mugshots to leak out from factories this time round.

Next page > GDC and mass media events

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