Speaking exclusively to Eurogamer.net, Microsoft Europe has today issued a surprise statement that catagorically denies the unveiling of Xbox 2 at the Games Developers Conference next week.
A senior Microsoft Europe executive responded to increasing speculation that it will launch its successor to Xbox at the San Jose show by saying: "Its fair to say we won't be announcing a hardware platform at GDC".
This news will come as a massive blow to those hoping that the show would mirror the role played by the event four years ago, when MS chief Bill Gates emerged on stage decked out in an Xbox baseball jacket to herald the company's arrival in the console market.
But despite all evidence and logic to the contrary, the company's appearance at the show is set to be limited to talking about games, with J Allard and Robbie Bach presenting two keynote speeches at the event.
The source confirmed: "It's fair to say that we are going to be discussing the role of software in games development".
Indeed, the programme of events at GDC lists Bach and Allard's 'Getting To The Game' keynote on March 24th as being essenitally no more illuminating than telling development attendees "how we can help you finally turn innovation into impact". and discusses a "faster path to Game of the Year accolades and to the hearts of the mass market". Interesting stuff, but not many had expected them to also add tantalising new information regarding how it was moving forward in the console market.
Several senior sources have cast doubt on whether Microsoft is issuing denials so as to not spoil the impact of its announcements at next week's show in San José, but it would be a massive surprise if the console was not discussed in some form at the showcase event.
One interesting possibility is that Microsoft will make the official announcement on Xbox 2 outside of GDC at its own separate press event nearby - thus eliminating the chance of information leaking out ahead of the show, as tends to happen at such big events.
Whatever the truth of the situation, Microsoft hasn't at any point shied away from the fact that it is working on a successor to Xbox, and with a late 2005 US launch mooted, for the timeline to follow that of its original console an announcement now is essential.
Most industry watchers expect - at the very least - for software demos to be shown off to give an idea of the machine's potential capabilities. Essentially, that's all Microsoft did at GDC 2000, with some rough specs to allow developers the time to work on producing a quality launch line up. Much the same is expected this time around, but for the console to be completely off the agenda would be a major surprise given the importance of the event - after all, launching developer specific information at E3 would be a strange tactic.
The statement follows comments made by Microsoft Japan's Asako Miyata, which also confirmed that Xbox 2 won't be at the event, and that specs may not even be revealed, in order to make sure the machine outperforms the PS3.
More Xbox 2 news as we get it.