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Microsoft to Debut New Xbox Before E3

New console follows reveal of Sony's PlayStation 4 in February as the companies fight to be the entertainment hub in homes.

Mark May 21 on your calendar.

That’s when Microsoft plans to unveil the next generation of its popular Xbox 360 videogame console – a device that the company aims to make an even bigger player in the livingroom for movies and TV shows.

Microsoft will host the press conference from its own home base in Redmond, Wash., a rare occasion for the company, but one that will enable it to closely control the message as it looks to top rival Sony, which already has introduced its new PlayStation 4, also out in stores later this fall.

Spike TV will stream the event live in North America on Xbox.com, Xbox Live and on the cable channel, the way Sony offered up a live view to consumers of its own presser in February.

Timing of Microsoft’s event will now have revealed both the next iteration of the Xbox 360 and PS4 before the videogame industry’s annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) takes place June 11-13 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Move guarantees that hardware will overshadow games at the confab – especially since Sony never actually revealed what its PS4 looks like. However, Xbox said in a blog post it will use E3 (that takes place 19 days after its Xbox event) to introduce the tentpole title games it’s lined up for the new console.

Still by whetting the appetite of the media, but also media executives, Microsoft and Sony are clearly looking to capture the interest of content companies across the board – from gamemakers to film, TV and web series producers – as the consoles are positioned to up their roles as distribution platforms.

There are few details that have leaked about the new Xbox before it pulls back the curtain next month.

However, those in the games biz anticipate the device, code-named Durango, to require an Internet connection to run, connect to set top boxes through partnerships with cable companies, and offer a redesigned Kinect motion control sensor that’s smaller than the current version.

Either way, Microsoft isn’t necessarily desperate to release a new console.

In March, the device continued to sell more units than any other console from Sony and Nintendo, marking the 27th consecutive time it’s held the top spot in the U.S, according to Microsoft and NPD. It moved 261,000 units that month, and the Xbox brand generated more than $402 million in sales when factoring in hardware, software and accessories.

Xbox also continues to add new entertainment apps to its Xbox Live subscription-based service, with Warner Bros.’ movie service Flixster, which includes access to movie scores from Rotten Tomatoes.

But a more high-tech console from Microsoft, and the supercharged new PlayStation Sony is readying, will be sure to have more than just gamers interested in what’s about to hit retail shelves later this year. As Microsoft is only happy to have you do through its Xbox: Stay tuned.

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