Leaks deflate MTV Xbox show

Microsoft will be taking the wraps off its next-generation Xbox console tonight, giving the world an early look at a system it hopes will define and dominate the future of video gaming. Unfortunately though, leaked pictures have been surfacing which could significantly reduce the impact of the unveiling.

From what the pictures show us it appears that Microsoft has softened the console's appearance to give it a broader appeal. These photos show the Xbox 360, as it is apparently being called, to be able to stand vertically on one end (like the PS2) — quite a difference from its boxy, black predecessor.

Although Microsoft has tried to keep a lid on the Xbox 360 until tonight's official unveiling, leaks about the console's power, speed and accessories have also surfaced on avid gamer sites and online forums. Much of the leaking was spurred by a posting on the Engadget site, which showed a picture of the console taken at a pre-launch party last week.

Microsoft has not publicly confirmed or denied these details, instead referring to them as "buzz and speculation." The official disclosure will come when the company unveils the console tonight on cable-music channel MTV on the East Coast at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time (the program runs on the West Coast at 9:30 p.m.).

The online leaks have allowed Microsoft to dominate the news cycle this week before the start of E3 while its rivals, Sony and Nintendo, have been mostly silent before their media briefings next week. Xbox is riding a public-relations wave, but every leak takes away a little of the oomph from its official console unveiling. Even then, Microsoft plans to withhold some details until Monday night.

"That's not going to help Microsoft a whole lot, because what they want to do is when they reveal it on MTV or to the industry, they want to make a really big splash," said Dan "Shoe" Hsu, editor in chief of Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine. "Now when people see it, what's going to be running through everyone's mind is, 'I've seen it already.' "

If it is the first next-generation console to launch, the Xbox 360 will beat the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution by several months, perhaps even up to a year. Because of the timing, Microsoft will have the most to say about its console at E3, said Peer Schneider, senior publisher for IGN Entertainment. However, expect Sony to have plenty to say as well, Schneider said.

"They'll have to say something," he said. "Sony has to defend itself and it has to tell the gaming industry why it should care about the PlayStation 3."