In 2005 Microsoft rushed out the successor to the original short-lived Xbox, and Red Rings of Death aside, their strategy did give them a fighting chance against the soon-to-be successor of the PlayStation 2 (i.e. the best-selling console of all-time). The Xbox 360 had a full year head start on the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii and it sold incredibly well because of it. For the “next-gen” – soon to be the current generation of consoles – Sony ensured that wouldn’t happen again by making the first move and unveiling the PlayStation 4 in February.

Since rounding up gaming press from around the world and bringing them to New York to introduce the PS4, rumors about the Microsoft camp indicated that a similar Xbox unveiling would occur in April. As it turns out, that was the plan, but it’s been pushed to May.

Two separate sources are confirming that Microsoft is indeed following in Sony’s footsteps in their attempt at getting the next-gen Xbox in the minds of gamers and the media for the the gaming overload that is E3 2013. Paul Thurrot, a tech blogger who follows Windows closely, spoke about the new Xbox on the What The Tech video show, and dropped/confirmed a few details:

  • Next-gen Xbox event was scheduled for April 24th, now it’s pushed back to May 21st.
  • Next-gen Xbox will release in “early November.”
  • Next-gen Xbox will cost $500, but $300 with a subscription.
  • “Must be internet-connected to use” according to the “notes” he’s seen.
  • There will also be a new Xbox 360 model (codenamed Stingray) for $100.

The two-tier pricing doesn’t come as a surprise since Microsoft started testing the waters with subscription plans on the Xbox 360. The new Xbox 360 model however, for a very low cost, could be an indicator that the next-gen Xbox is not backwards compatible. The big news of course, are the dates, and The Verge confirmed with their sources that the May 21st unveiling event is accurate and that’ll occur in a “small venue” to showcase first-look details. After reading Twitter responses from Microsoft employees during the PlayStation 4 event, including Major Nelson, you can count on the actual console design being revealed here.

If Microsoft is planning on denying rumors and reports that their next-gen Xbox is going to force users to always be connected to their servers in order for it to function when it comes to playing single-player games, then the timing of this news couldn’t be better. If however, after the Adam Orth debacle – where the internet and media turned on the Microsoft creative director last week when he tried to defend the idea – then Microsoft is starting on the wrong foot.

The always-online issue has been a hot button topic for months now, thanks in large part due to Diablo 3 and SimCity‘s forceful use of it, and their launch woes. The issues forced Sony to quickly address the concern for their next console by revealing that the PlayStation 4 does not need to be “always-on.” In response to the Orth mess, and after issuing an official, yet coy apology, Microsoft has apparently reminded employees to keep quiet about the next-gen Xbox.

MCV spoke with representatives for multiple video game retailers across the UK who unanimously agreed that always-online is a straight-up bad idea and that it would hurt the Xbox name, while helping PS4. As for the sharing and social features the PS4 boasts, Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat tells Eurogamer that we can expect similar from the Xbox 720:

“It’s going to be connected. It’s going to be social. It’s going to be immersive. It’s going to be interactive,”

During the PS4 presentation on February 20th in New York, Sony executives took to the stage and one of the points they highlighted is that the PlayStation 4 is built specifically for the gamer first, as opposed to being designed for the living room. This seemed to be a shot directed at Microsoft who have increasingly positioned the Xbox 360 as an all-purpose entertainment system, highlighting TV deals and apps during their last several E3 keynotes. On The Official Microsoft Blog this morning, Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Business for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, posted about the deal between Microsoft and Ericsson today that has implications for the next-gen Xbox.

Ericsson is acquiring Mediaroom – the world’s leading internet TV platform – from Microsoft. Why? Because Microsoft is going to focus their “TV resources” on their Xbox platform, meaning, their next-gen console:

With the sale of Mediaroom, Microsoft is dedicating all TV resources to Xbox in a continued mission to make it the premium entertainment service that delivers all the games and entertainment consumers want — whether on a console, phone, PC or tablet. And with 76 million Xbox 360 consoles around the world with 46 million Xbox LIVE members, it is a mission that gets us out of bed in the morning.

Count on this being part of full unveiling of the next-gen Xbox during E3. Would you consider using the next Xbox for all of your TV needs, in addition to gaming? Would this make an always-online requirement acceptable?

Let me know on Twitter @rob_keyes!

Sources: Eurogamer, MicrosoftMCVThe VergeWhat The Tech