A September launch date may be looking increasingly likely for the Xbox 360 but the next-gen console war won't really kick off until the PS3 arrives, according to a report by interactive entertainment analyst Michael Pachter. And what's more, he reckons it'll win.
Pachter's report predicts that the current cycle "will continue long past the launch of the Xbox 360," adding, "We do not view that Microsoft's pending announcement will have significant near-term impact on the US publishers.
"In contrast, we expect the launch of Sony's PS3 (expected in late 2006) to mark the beginning of the next cycle, and think that rapid sales growth will not materialize until 2007."
Speaking to US site GameDAILY Pachter compared the launch of Xbox 360 to that of the PSP, saying "It's not going to cause PS2 owners to buy less software."
However, Pachter says, "If Microsoft launches first, they're going to get sales for a year 'for free'. So if they get 30 per cent market from the day of the PS3 launch plus whatever they sell the first year, they're going to do better than 30 per cent."
Pachter forecasts that game purchases by both Xbox and PS2 owners will slow down as the release date for each next-gen console draws near and that only the hardcore fanbase will purchase them in the months immediately following launch, making 2006 a transitionary year.
But 2007 will see "the ramp", says Pachter - "the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Revolution and PSP all out and starting to mature."
Which means that even though Microsoft is launching its console early, predicts Pachter, Sony will retain its position as market leader. "In 2010, Sony's going to have 55 per cent, Microsoft's going to have 35 per cent and Nintendo 10 per cent, with all three of those having plus or minus five per cent," he concludes, swirling his teacup mysteriously.
Pachter ended by adding that the he thought the Xbox 360 was likely to be backwards compatible with original Xbox games, and that if Microsoft decided against this he would "question their judgement."
Well, we'll find out soon enough, seeing as the Xbox 360 MTV special is just over a week away...