Speculation has been running rampant about Microsoft and Sony’s new consoles for some time. Things really kicked into gear when Nintendo announced that the Wii U was scheduled to launch next year, in 2012. Gamers, enthusiast, tech sites, developers and publishers all started pitching in about the next phase of gaming and what gamers should and can expect in the new generation.

With announcements for upcoming games arriving in 2014, it’s doubtful that these titles are for current gen systems. Heck, Avalanche Studios admitted their new IP in 2014 [via Edge] was for the next generation of consoles. That sort of leaves most people to question: will the Xbox 720 and PS4 arrive in 2013 or 2014?

Reason why 2012 is too soon: Next year is highly unlikely for the launch of Microsoft or Sony’s new consoles. While speculation from some sites emerged hinting at manufacturing of Sony hardware for a 2012 release, it’s just not feasible from a business standpoint. Besides, Sony and Microsoft are still trying to saturate the market with the PS Move and the Kinect, which aren't doing bad in sales but still have a ways to go before either is adamantly mainstream.

That’s not to mention that Halo 4, one of the biggest sequels of 2012, is being released for the Xbox 360…that alone would cripple any buzz for a potential launch of a new console during the holiday season. On the PS3 software front, there are a couple of exclusive IPs coming in 2012 such as Dust 514 and Starhawk that many gamers are looking forward to and it would be counter-productive to launch a new console the same year you’re trying to get some new properties off the ground for an older console.

Reasons for launching in 2013: 2013 would be an odd year to launch but not entirely off the mark. While most console releases are scheduled around half-decade or start-of-the-decade releases, there were exceptions like the GameCube and Xbox, which launched in 2001 in North America and 2002 in Europe, and let’s not forget about the Atari Jaguar which had the odd release of coming out in between the SNES and original PlayStation back in 1993.

From a business standpoint, releasing the Xbox 720 or PS4 during the holiday season of 2013 would make sense. This gives many third-party developers time to polish up their games for early first-quarter releases in 2014 and allows for some real blockbuster games to hit store shelves during the holiday season of late 2014. Let’s also take into account that by 2013 most developers should be comfortable with Kinect and PS Move support, which are primed at being core components for the next set of consoles [via CVG] and the sales of both devices throughout 2012 would make it easier to accept their integration as a standard of gaming in 2013 by most core gamers, possibly coinciding with the launch of the new consoles during the fourth quarter of that same year.

Also, after 2012 there isn’t much else that can be done with the PS3 and Xbox 360, and Sony did say that the PS4 would arrive as soon as developers max out the PS3. The only problem with a 2013 launch is that it doesn’t give gamers a lot of time to financially recuperate from the Wii U, especially if the console has a heavy price-tag.

Reasons for launching in 2014: Microsoft and Sony don’t have much to lose with a 2014 release. Already 2013 looks slim for any noteworthy games other than a few sequels and remakes, but pushing boundaries has come to a halt. Heck, even Codemaster’s admitted that they had to scale down the destructibility in BodyCount to accommodate for the lack of RAM in the Xbox 360 and PS3. Ubisoft has also already started working on AI middleware for next-generation consoles because they feel their creativity is currently limited by the Xbox 360 and PS3. Usually, new middleware engines take anywhere between two and three years to perfect and that would make sense that the tech would be finished by 2013, allowing for the developers to finish working on a game for a 2014 release.

It’s guaranteed though, that the new consoles won’t arrive any later than 2014 given that the graphics tech is already finished for the consoles, according to AMD, and both Epic and Crytek have already future-proofed their engines for next-generation, real-time graphics and physics integration, such as the Samaritan demo. And let’s not forget that THQ recently announced that the sequel to Homefront will be launching in 2014 for consoles and PC along with Avalanche Studios' new IP. And I doubt Crytek or any other big-budget studio is going to want to try squeezing next-generation engine features into the age-old Xbox 360 and PS3 when 2014 rolls around. Added to this, how could next-gen games release without next-gen consoles?

Nevertheless, given all the hints and winks from developers about next-gen tech, what year do you think the consoles will be launching, 2013 or 2014 and why? Feel free to drop a comment below.

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