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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
New Xbox to kick off console wars
Elijah Wood
Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood is hosting the MTV show
Gamers will get a first look at Microsoft's new video game console in a star-studded show on MTV.

The unveiling on Thursday night in the US has been preceded by leaks, which suggest the console will be called the Xbox 360 and be mostly white.

Microsoft has not confirmed the details of the successor to the Xbox, calling the leaks "buzz and speculation".

Rivals Sony and Nintendo are expected to reveal details of their new consoles next week at the annual games show, E3.

Sleek and white

New consoles are usually unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3. But in a change of tactics, Microsoft is pre-empting the show by offering a first peek at its new console on MTV.

The half hour show hosted by actor Elijah Wood will air on various MTV channels around the world on 12 and 13 May.

Despite the incredible success of this most recent generation of video game hardware, these next generation consoles that Sony and Microsoft are ushering will be legendary
Ankarino Lara, GameSpot
The special was recorded last week and since then leaked details and images of the console have made their way onto the internet.

The machine is widely expected to be known as Xbox 360. In terms of look and feel, images on the web suggest it will be sleek and white, and designed to stand on one end.

It is expected to have an external hard drive, wireless controllers and be able to play audio and video.

While no specific details about the machine's computing power has been officially released, leaks suggest it will be powered by three 64-bit processors.

The console will also make wider use of the Xbox Live online gaming system, with increased use of downloads.

Head start

Microsoft is aiming to beat its rivals by bringing out its machine well ahead of them.

"We came out of this round a strong number two," said Microsoft boss Bill Gates earlier this month.

Bill Gates with Microsoft's Xbox
Gates has thrown millions of dollars into the Xbox
"Now people are looking at the two companies at a pretty much equal basis."

The original Xbox was launched a year after Sony's PlayStation 2, providing an invaluable head start to the Japanese electronics giant.

Analysts widely expect the Xbox 360 to be in the shops by the end of the year, whereas the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution are not expected until next year.

"All signs point to Xbox 360 beating the PlayStation 3 to market," said Ankarino Lara, editorial director of the specialist games website GameSpot.

"This is an interesting predicament for Sony to be in after being so successful in always getting their hardware out before their competitors," said Mr Lara

"When the PlayStation 2 rolled out in 2000, they had a one year jump on the Xbox and have since sold many more units."

Entertainment hub

The Xbox 360 will be one of the most important products for Microsoft this year. It has poured millions into turning the software giant into a leading player in the world of video games.

North America: Thursday 2130
Japan/Asia: Friday 1130
UK: Friday 2000
Scandinavia: Friday 2200
Australia: Friday 1900
All times local
It is looking to grab a larger share of the billion dollar console market.

At the same time, the new console will be so powerful that it could become the all-purpose digital entertainment hub in many homes.

According to Mr Gates, the Xbox 360 will have a similar interface to its Windows Media Center PCs, which Microsoft has been touting for the past three years as the nerve centre for digital entertainment.

"Despite the incredible success of this most recent generation of video game hardware, these next generation consoles that Sony and Microsoft are ushering in will be legendary" said GameSpot's Mr Lara.

"Video games are on the verge of an incredible breakthrough, or at least a very significant turning point, so this E3 is going to be a key moment in the history of the video game industry."

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