Xbox 720 Launch Date And Price Rumors Follow Possible 'Always On' Connectivity Reports

While Microsoft remains tightlipped about details of the so-called Xbox 720, several sources are zeroing in on a May launch date for the next-generation gaming console. We also finally have some insight on one of the most anticipated features for this device: its price.

Microsoft analyst Paul Thurrott told Web show What the Tech on Friday that we should expect to see the latest Xbox at an event being planned for May 21. Several launch dates have been proposed for the system, which was initially rumored to be unveiled at an April 24 event. However, some experts like Robert W. Baird analyst Colin Sebastian proposed a May unveiling, while others considered we would see the device at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, June 11-13.

The Verge concurs with the late May launch date, saying the event will take place at a small venue to discuss preliminary details about the Xbox 720, which developers refer to by its codename, Durango. Perhaps Microsoft will take a cue from Sony and only unveil information about its project without actually unveiling the console. The Verge suggests that a large-scale unveiling will likely take place at E3 and also reports that Microsoft confirmed Xbox will be discussed at its Build conference in late June.

Microsoft has actually used this formula before, with its launch of the Xbox 360. Initially unveiled on MTV in May 2005, a launch with detailed system and game information came later that month at E3.

Reports indicate that, after Sony unveiled its PlayStation 4 in February, Microsoft took the opportunity to tweak its system to be PS4’s perfect adversary. Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat confirmed to Eurogamer that Microsoft’s console is “aligned with what Sony announced.”

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

The buildup for the Xbox 720 suggests that its price may be just as big as its prelaunch demand. Thurrott reports that once the console is released, we will see two variants: an all-inclusive model that will cost approximately $500 and a scaled-down model that will sell for about $300. In addition, the analyst says that we will see a low-budget Xbox 360 variant, codenamed Stingray, that will be released later this year and sell for $99.

We saw a slight jump in price from that of the Xbox 360 during its primary release in November 2005. The Xbox 360 premium package sold for $399, while its Xbox 360 Core budget package sold for $299. Prices remain lower than Sony’s previous generation PlayStation 3, which sold for $499 and $599, respectively, for its low-end and high-end models.

Pricing for PlayStation 4 has not been confirmed, but even the head of Sony’s U.S. division, Jack Tretton, hopes the new console won’t be as costly upon its release, he told All Things D in February. Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida told Engadget that the PlayStation 4 will be available for a tryout “by” E3.

As for Microsoft, the company remains elusive about its plans even in the wake of Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth’s Twitter outburst on Friday that many considered confirmation that the Xbox 720 would include “always on” capabilities, meaning the console will have to be constantly connected to the Internet -- a feature that has been heavily criticized.

“Sorry, I don't get the drama around having an ‘always on’ console. Every device now is 'always on.' That's the world we live in,” Orth tweeted, in reaction to a report from tech website Kotaku on Thursday.

“If there isn't a connection, no games or apps can be started. If the connection is interrupted, then after a period of time -- currently three minutes, if I remember correctly -- the game/app is suspended and the network troubleshooter started,” the developer source in the Kotaku report said.

In addition to a #dealwithit hashtag, Orth went on to akin "always on" connectivity to a vacuum cleaner without electricity. The backlash against Orth’s comments prompted Microsoft to release a statement on the Major Nelson blog, apologizing, asserting that Orth is not a spokesperson for the company and stating that no official announcements have been made about its product road map. Orth has since set his Twitter account to private.

Even if Microsoft won’t talk, enthusiasts are likely happy to have the current launch date and price tidbits to hold them over until more concrete information comes in.

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