The rumors were correct: Microsoft will unveil the next version of its Xbox game console on May 21.
The company today sent invitations for the unveiling, which earlier had been expected to happen at the E3 game conference in Los Angeles in June. Reports of a May unveiling circulated last month but the company declined to confirm its plans until today.
Microsoft’s expected to begin selling the new console this holiday season, competing with Sony’s new PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Wii U. That will mark the start of a multi-billion-dollar battle between the next generation of game consoles. The industry is counting on the new consoles to revive sales, which have fallen the last two years as the current consoles aged and players gravitated to less expensive games played on phones, tablets and social networks.
The Xbox 720 or whatever it ends up being called is expected to have six times the power of the current Xbox 360, driven by AMD chips with a PC like architecture that could make current game discs unplayable or less convenient to play on the new system. The system is also expected to include a Blu-ray drive for the first time and come bundled with a new, more precise version of the Kinect voice and motion sensor.
Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division — which is dominated by the Xbox — had sales of $9.6 billion and operating income of $364 million in the company’s past fiscal year.
Details of the May 21 event are slim, but the invitation says Xbox chief Don Mattrick will host the event at the “Xbox campus” in Redmond. Perhaps there will be pizza.