We’ve been talking about the yet-unnamed Xbox 720 and the likely-named PlayStation 4 for a very long time now, with contradictory “reports” and rumors surfacing almost monthly. While the only confirmed new upcoming console so far is Nintendo’s Wii U, the latest insider reports claim that Microsoft and Sony will both be unveiling new consoles at this summer’s E3, while Nintendo showcases the final build of their Wii U along with a new model of the 3DS.

Before getting into the latest, let’s do a brief recap of what we’ve heard as of late on the next-gen console front.

  • The Xbox 720 could launch anywhere from this fall to early 2014 and we believe Microsoft will show it off at E3 2012. Latest reports have the device potentially doubling as a DVR with the Kinect 2 system being so accurate, that it can read lips.
  • The PlayStation 3 was generally expected to have the longest life cycle of the current-gen systems, but Sony has made it public that they don’t wish to launch their next platform later than the competition, and some analysts believe the PS4 could launch before the Xbox 720.
  • The Wii U is coming this year and we’re all waiting to see how powerful it really is, not just compared to the old Xbox 360 and PS3 but the upcoming Microsoft and Sony consoles.
  • The 3DS had a tough start, but is flying higher now with stronger sales and a friendlier price point. Oddly missing the basic feature of a secondary analog stick, Nintendo launched an ugly, large circle pad peripheral which led to speculation of an obligatory improved 3DS Lite.

The latest on these fronts comes first from MCV who are reporting that their “third-party publishing sources” claim that Microsoft has informed their partners that they plan to debut the Xbox 720 at E3 in LA in June. They continue to explain that Sony has done the same, but that while these two consoles will be showcased, their pricing and launch details likely won’t be.

PlayStation 4 release before Xbox Next 720

What this does mean however, is that E3 2012 could be the first time the world can directly compare the big three’s upcoming hardware offerings. Such moves from Sony and Microsoft could put Nintendo is a tough spot in launching the Wii U first, later this year, if the competitor products presented are more powerful or appealing.

As a follow-up, Michael French,  the Editor-in-Chief of the reporting publication MCV spoke with Guardian about the matter.

“A lot of people have suspected that Microsoft would show something. And what Sony has realised is that launching PS3 so long after the Xbox 360 meant that they were on the backfoot. If their closest rival steps up and does this forward thinking stuff, they need to be there too. If not, their industry partners will be asking, well, what about you?”

And on the idea of the Xbox 360 and PS3 sticking around longer thanks to the advent of motion controls?

“I don’t think people are buying into that any more. Every other piece of consumer hardware has proved that constant iteration is necessary.”

While some developers like Epic believe there’s a lot left to squeeze from the current-gen systems, developers like Ubisoft and DICE have been clamoring for the next-gen to arrive so we can all move on to bigger and better things. 2011 was a strong example of the current consoles lagging behind the PC (see: Battlefield 3) so we can understand the anxiety for improved specs to work with.

On the handheld side, the PS Vita launches soon in North America and Europe, and will be a highlight of the year for Sony, with a focus on software come E3. On the Nintendo side, Japanese mag Nikkei Trendy’s latest issue points towards a Spring release of a 3DS Lite model, whether that be this year or next, we don’t yet know, but this is just speculation on their part. Such a device would however, be a part of E3 2012.

“To increase the 3DS’s install base, there’s a possibility for a lighter version that addresses the handheld’s weak points, the thickness and the battery life.”

The 3DS battery life is certainly a weak point, but they fail to mention to obvious inclusion of a second circle pad built into the base model. There’s no way Nintendo would upgrade the hardware and not include that, but we can safely say a 3DS Lite is a certainty – it’s just a matter of time. Just look how many models and revisions of the Nintendo DS hit the market.

3DS Circle Pad Attachment Called the Circle Pad Pro

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happens later this month and Microsoft was rumored to potentially make an early first unveiling of the Xbox 360 successor there, with Nintendo also possibly bringing the Wii U. Are any other surprises in store to earn some pre-E3 buzz?

This year promises to be a big one, and this just on the hardware side. Are you excited to see what’s next or are you okay waiting a while before the next-gen hits hard?

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: MCV, Guardian, Nikkei Trendy (via Kotaku)

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