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CVG sources: Microsoft planning Gamescom press conference

Dev partners told of grand media briefing in August

Microsoft has notified event organisers and third party studios that it plans to host a press conference at Gamescom in August, CVG has learned.

Although it is not believed that a final date has been set, nor is there a complete schedule of what is to be shown, CVG understands that certain developers have already been briefed and that Microsoft will announce its plans shortly.

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Former Sony exec Phil Harrison can help Microsoft secure its position in Europe

A spokesperson for the company said: "We're excited to be back at Gamescom this year but we're not announcing any further details on our plans at this time. Please stay tuned for more details!"

The one-hour media briefing will be the first of its kind that Microsoft has held in the event's history - and is another signal of its dedication to attain a better foothold in Europe.

The decision comes in the wake of major setbacks and extraordinary eleventh-hour decisions at Microsoft's games division. On Monday the corporation confirmed Xbox chief Don Mattrick had left for Zynga - just two weeks after its dramatic abandonment of the underpinning online-native design pillars of the console.

Now, facing an uphill public relations challenge, key Xbox executives want to readdress the core attractions of the system during a one-off press conference at Gamescom - just three months before the system launches across the west.

New grounds

In May, CVG was told by Sony sources that both companies are targeting Europe as a heightened priority region - in many ways more important that Japan - as part of its race to win the market.

Despite the neck-and-neck global lifetime sales of the PS3 and Xbox 360 (both edging towards 80m units), the geo-breakdown of those numbers shows that Xbox's main business is in the US (40m) and UK (8m); two areas where it has been consistently dominant.

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Studios boss Phil Spencer says Microsoft still has exclusive games to reveal before Xbox One launches in November

While PlayStation is hardly an insignificance in those two countries (about 25m sales in the US and 5m in the UK), it balances that with a healthy business across Japan and other parts of Europe. Although the chances of Xbox succeeding in Japan remain slim, its position across Europe could feasibly be strengthened.

In March 2012, the Xbox team revealed it had secured Phil Harrison's services as corporate vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business.

At the time, Microsoft said Harrison "will not only lead the Microsoft Studios European organisation directly, but will also influence the broader performance of IEB's European business through strategic partnerships and by bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future."

Harrison's profile and knowledge of UK and European studios, along with his deep understanding of the commercial sensibilities of the region, could offer Microsoft a valuable perspective on how to succeed in the area.

With Sony expecting Microsoft to tackle Europe more aggressively, CVG heard from a company insider that PlayStation is "prepared to do whatever it takes" to ensure success in Europe - its first step being to ensure there is no PS4 delay across Europe.

Microsoft has officially confirmed an Xbox One release date window of November 2013 in 21 markets and a price of £429 / $499 / €499.

Gamescom runs from August 21-25 in Cologne, Germany.

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