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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...

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3) Special industry press event / GDC

Practiced by • Sony (PS2, 1999) (PS Vita, 2011) • Microsoft (Xbox, 2000)

Independent industry events have many advantages over E3 reveals, the most crucial is that they draw in the market's undivided attention. At E3 only a single company can be regarded as the 'winner', but at a one-off standalone event it's pretty hard to lose.

In January 2011, Sony held a special PlayStation Meeting event in Japan to officially announce its "next-generation portable" system, before revealing fuller details at E3 several months later. The event appeared to show that - when it comes to announcing new systems - even a press conference specifically catered for Japan has significant global reach.

Meanwhile, the Game Developers Conference has traditionally proven to be an useful location for a new console 'primer' announcement.

In March 2000, Bill Gates revealed the tech behind the first Xbox (essentially a soft console announcement) during a GDC keynote. A year earlier, Phil Harrison discussed new hardware tech (again, a soft PS2 announcement) during a keynote called The Future of Interactive Entertainment (watch it here)

Both companies issued press releases alongside the event to expand the announcement's reach.

Michael French, the editor-in-chief for industry publications Develop and MCV, says that Microsoft and Sony will both be openly discussing future technologies at GDC 2013 (March 25-29).

"It's likely because both Microsoft and Sony have to get developers on-side," he said.

"In 2005 Microsoft didn't announce the Xbox 360 at GDC, but they did discuss the 'HD era' in great depth. I remember they even gave out HD TVs to developers who attended the speaker session.

French said a similar forward-looking GDC keynote was made by Nintendo at GDC 2005, with the company discussing the Wii's processor tech.

"The reason why this is so important is it plants the seed in the wider development community about what tech the machines will use and how to get the most out of them.

"It wouldn't be a surprised if Microsoft or Sony completely focused their GDC talks on one aspect of the systems, like cloud technology. The consumer press materials will likely be saved for E3, but I expect some early information to be revealed at GDC."

The organisers of the Games Developers Conference often clarify that their event is about sharing information with developers, not promoting product, so full console reveals aren't even appropriate, let alone likely. However, product-focused events sometimes crop up alongside GDC and - while not directly affiliated with the event - there is a general expectation that more will occur in the years ahead.


4) Mass media blitz

Practiced by • Microsoft (Xbox 360, 2005)

It wasn't exactly gripping TV, but Microsoft nevertheless got hundreds of thousands of people to switch onto MTV on May 12th, 2005, so they could be the first to see its new console.

With a bizarre mix of meticulously edited taped footage, live audiences, Elijah Wood and bands of the moment, the Xbox 360 reveal on MTV was a clear attempt by Microsoft to attack the trendy PlayStation demographic. One week later, the Xbox 360 was on the cover of Time magazine along with Bill Gates, just a few days before the Microsoft E3 press conference where the full details of the business were explained.

Seven years hence, both TV and print media are less a prominent platform for building buzz and targeting younger demographics. However, as Nintendo recently demonstrated, interest from TV networks is hard to achieve, so partnerships such as MTV's with Xbox may not be so easily turned down.

Next page > Conclusion: CVG predicts next-gen reveal dates

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