A report this morning of gamesindustry.biz states that sources close to the company revealed that Microsoft is considering a launch of the next Xbox by mid-2005. In fact, the report states that internal schedules at Microsoft as recently as last November called for the Xbox 2 to be launched in time for Christmas 2004.
A number of key developers, whose names are being withheld for legal reasons, have stated that the company suggested that the new hardware would be in shops for Christmas 2004 when they revealed the outline specification for Xbox 2 late last year.
The date, which has now slipped to mid-2005, is still ahead of the Christmas 2005 release anticipated by most within the industry.
“I think they underestimated how hard it was going to be to build a console that wasn’t using PC architecture,” one source stated. “But they’re racing to get to the market as soon as possible – they really want to reverse the head start that Sony had last time.”
A mid-2005 release of Microsoft’s next console would give the company a year’s head start on Sony’s PS3. That time frame may even be expanded as some industry insiders expect Sony to delay the release of the PS3 in order to give more time in the spotlight to their upcoming handheld device, the PSP.
Backing up the claims of an early release, Microsoft is believed to be encouraging developers to move to next generation development ahead of schedule. This in contrast to Sony’s lack of eagerness to launch a next-generation console as few if any companies have moved their PS2 teams onto PS3 projects as yet.
With the console wars hitting an all-time high, the opportunity for exclusivity in the next-gen market may prove to tempting for the big M-machine too resist and a release in mid-2005 would seem to provide a distinct market advantage.
Hopefully we’ll learn much more on the console itself and when Microsoft plans to release the next Xbox at this year’s E3.