Rumor Alert: Both PS4 and Xbox 720 Announcements Coming at E3 2012?

When the Playstation 3 was nearing its release back in 2006, Sony was pretty adamant about a certain 10-year life cycle. The console was a couple years ahead of the competition in terms of technology, and only now, six years later, are we truly starting to see what the PS3 is capable of.

But no matter what claims Sony made as to the life-cycle of their hardware, there are certain other considerations that need to be weighed seriously. PC graphical technology has advanced far beyond the PS3 (and the Xbox 360), the system's flaws have been exposed and torn apart, and it would take a new console to fix a lot of them.

Maybe more importantly, Sony's competition is just about ready to take our money away with new consoles. We know all about the Wii U from Nintendo, expected to launch in the second half of 2012. We also know that Microsoft is working on their followup to the 360, coined the Xbox 720 by fans. Is it time for Sony to follow suit with a Playstation 4 announcement in 2012?

Only weeks after everyone pretty much agreed that Microsoft was gearing up to announce their new console, as early as next week's CES event, rumors are swirling that a PS4 announcement and demo could come as early as E3 2012 in July.

MCV is reporting that a reliable yet unnamed source has confirmed this to them. The site's editor, Ben Parfitt, went on to tweet "Obviously we can't reveal our sources. But you have my personal word on this - the source is exemplary, 100% concrete, ultra high level"

If true, it would mean that each of the "big 3" hardware makers would be showing off a new product at the event, with Microsoft and Sony offering a first look at whatever's coming out of their workshops, and with Nintendo finally giving us launch details and real games to play for the Wii U. As you can imagine, something like this has never happened before.

The 360 is already one of the longest-serving consoles in gaming history, and the Wii was clearly two steps behind its entire run. What's a little surprising here is Sony jumping into the fray as well. But it makes sense. They missed the boat last go-around, waiting too long to release the PS3. When it finally hit, the 360 already had way too much momentum, regardless of whose console was better than whose. There's obviously no doubt that a new Xbox would outperform the PS3, so do they really want to continue with their cycle, focusing on perfecting exclusives before releasing around 2015? Or does it make sense for them to play catch-up, knowing that there are plenty of things left for them to improve on, both in terms of processing capabilities as well as details and problems?

It should also be noted that the Playstation Vita's performance could also play a huge role in whether Sony makes an announcement or not. It's already doing poorly in Japan, if the portable device displays a similar lack of success in North America, it might be in Sony's best interest to take the attention away from the Vita and put it onto a new console. Then again, it could also mean that the company would be better off rethinking their hardware strategies. Even still, if it performs better than expected, are they better off milking its success, or building on it with the PS4, possibly with more Vita integration as a potential controller?

As for the potential Xbox 720, the changes are obvious, starting with a new game disc format to catch up with the PS3's Bluray player, as well as (unfortunately), more Kinect integration and features for Xbox Live.

Of course, if either company expects people to shell out another $500 for consoles, they better have a little more than peripheral integration and cross game chat up their sleeves. The obvious fear that we have with these potential announcements is that both companies could be jumping the gun, thanks to Nintendo, and that could very well hinder the development cycle. More stress could equal less time and ideas that don't exactly merit a new release.

That said, considering how connected both the 360 and PS3 currently, it doesn't mean that either console has to die. In fact both will still have an extended post-market shelf life, just like the PS2. But it's time for a change. And if these rumors are true, 2012 is going to be an exciting year for gamers.

And either way, even if we do get an announcement, it's very possible that neither console will see the light of day until even 2014. But thanks to Nintendo's happy trigger fingers with the Wii U, the hype battle could be starting much earlier than expected.