Why You Probably Won’t See The ‘Xbox 720’ at E3 2011

jmaltz@pnosker.com May 8, 2011 0

Recently rumors started floating around the internet regarding a possible E3 reveal of the next Xbox (we’ll just call it the Xbox 3 for simplicity sake).  The report, initially published by Develop, has entered into a little bit of controversy since its original publication, with sources from Eurogamer and IGN chiming in to say that the console will likely not see a reveal in LA this year.  Although we don’t have any official sources to agree with us, some common logic leads us to believe that those in the “no reveal” camp are likely the correct ones.


The biggest reason that Microsoft will be holding their horses on announcing, next Xbox is a little piece of hardware called the Kinect (you may have heard of it, they marketed it a couple of places last winter).  Initially seen as a peripheral which would dramatically extend the lifespan of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the Kinect has lived up to the potential it promised by providing a veritable playground for modders to use.  What’s more, with releases like The Gunstringer and Children of Eden on tap, the Kinect looks like it’s finally finding its gameplay legs as well.   On the back of these two factor and a monstrous advertising campaign, the Kinect has actually succeeded to the tune of over 10 million units sold, in the process giving Microsoft a foothold in the ever elusive casual market.

Given all of this, and the proximity to Kinect’s launch, announcing another console now would assuredly lead to what our own Will Anderson calls “the Saturn effect”.  In the Saturn effect (affectionately named for the SEGA Saturn) a console manufacturer announces their next console shortly after releasing an earlier one.  This results in publishers pulling support for the older console and sales of the original console tanking. 

This is especially devastating because the Kinect has already built up a fair head of steam, and announcing an Xbox 3 would kill the momentum of both the Xbox 360 and the Kinect, effectively nullifying the $500 million advertising campaign.  Lastly, even though support will probably be continued in the next generation, it will be difficult to sell current-gen users on buying the Kinect when they can just wait a year and pick up one as part of a bundle.

What’s more, releasing a new console so soon after the Kinect runs the risk of alienating the new fanbase.  Although the console manufacturer is sure to continue Xbox 360 support for a couple of years after their next offering, releasing a new console two years after pushing an expensive peripheral on consumers likely isn’t going to win over a whole lot of new or continuing fans.  After all, the Xbox 360 doesn’t exactly have the best reputation thanks to its many problems, and Microsoft could do with some consumer good will built up thanks to solid support of the Slim and Xbox Kinect.

Of course, there are a number of other factors which will contribute to Microsoft holding their horses on the Xbox 3 announcement, not the least of which is avoiding yet another RRoD fiasco.  Put together, all signs point to Microsoft holding their horses this E3 and not showing next-gen goodies.  Without a new console to unveil though, what will Microsoft have on display during their press conference?  Some new Kinect games are shoo-in, but outside of that there’s a giant question mark in this year’s lineup.  Luckily our very own Will Anderson will be at the show to give you the low down on everything the big three are showing, and just how good it is.


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