So, what's the proof that Microsoft has plans to launch the Xbox 2 so early? Well, a lot of design studios are now wrapping up their final Xbox projects and are not starting new ones. Instead, they'll be working on Xbox 2 titles. Take for example, Bungie. They are putting the finishing touches on Halo 2 and then have nothing for the Xbox planned after that. Then, there's another in-house design team, Rare. Yes, good 'ol Rare, which was purchased several years ago by Microsoft, and has yet to put a true "killer" title for the Xbox, will most likely put the highly (and personally, super-highly) anticipated "Perfect Dark" sequel out on the Xbox 2. Stupid Skedar ruins! Add to all of this the fact that Microsoft cancelled its XSN lineup for 2004. The logical reason being that XSN developers are focusing on the Xbox 2 so that there is a full line up of sports games at launch or soon thereafter.
Meanwhile, Sony is dragging its heels on the PS3, and that may be fine. They do dominate the market and who isn't going to buy a PS3 when it comes out? PS2 developers, in general, are not yet working on PS3 titles as Sony expects at least another 2 years out of its aging console. Part of the reason for a late PS3 launch, some speculate, is that Sony wants the PSP handheld to have its fair share of the limelight.
It's going to be interesting. You can't discount the early bird gets the worm theory. I mean, Sony, in a lot of ways, is where it is today because it got a year head start on the Xbox and GCN with the PS2. If the Xbox 2 can beat the PS3 by a good year or so it will really start to catch up. Granted, as mentioned earlier, I don't think Sony will have any trouble selling the PS3 whenever it comes out, but to stay on top you need to stay agressive and, at least to me, it looks like Microsoft is the more aggressive player right now.
Oh, and what about the N5? Well, we'll just have to wait and see where Nintendo fits into the picture. And they say this is going to be a down year in video games. Silly rabbits.