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'EA leak' yields late 2005 Xbox 2 ship date

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Microsoft's next-generation Xbox console, whether it will be dubbed 'Xbox 2' or 'Xbox Next', is going to ship late 2005, according to reports citing a press released that is alleged to have leaked out of games publishing giant Electronic Arts.

Games site Spong this week received a copy of an as-yet-unpublished announcement of EA's game Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The title is due to ship late 2005.

And so, it seems, is the Xbox 2. According to EA's blurb, the game will be available for all the usual suspects but crucially a "simultaneous ship with the Xbox2 platform".

The implication is clear: the game will ship late 2005 and so with Microsoft's next-generation console.

It has been rumoured for some time that Microsoft will ship Xbox 2/Next later this year in a bid to grab the Christmas 2005 sales period for its own and steal a march on Sony's PlayStation 3, which isn't expected to arrive in the West before 2006, and Nintendo's upcoming 'Revolution', the successor to GameCube.

Of course, Spong's press release may yet prove a fake, or at least to have been doctored by the leaker to incorporate the Xbox 2 release timeframe. Or EA may be simply guessing.

Had Microsoft been planning a late 2005 release, some observers have argued, surely it would have announced the fact at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month? Bill Gates's keynote made no mention of the upcoming console - probably just as well when the featured Xbox experienced a blue-screen-of-death crash. All eyes will now turn to E3 in May, the key event at which MS could launch Xbox 2 - not least because Sony is likely to discuss PS3 there too. ®

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