So, seven years into the Xbox 360 life cycle, news arrives that it is dropping in sales at a significant rate. From January to March of this year, Microsoft’s console has seen a decline in sales by 48% since last year. That equates to roughly $584 million. Microsoft also saw an increase in research and development equaling 35%. That may point to a future console well under way. Or it may just mean the Windows Phone project Microsoft has been working on is going to be amazing.

We may not see the “Next-box” until 2014, and with declines in sales of this size, it seems it may be too far off. Microsoft may have given it’s console a bit too much credit. Average console life cycles have ranged from five to six years. If the rumors are correct, the 360 will be closing in on a decade life span. This doesn’t just affect console gamers either. PC games are often ported from a console version of the game. So essentially, many PC games are nothing more than ports of titles running on seven year old hardware.

While the Kinect has helped Microsoft a great deal, that accessory is running into problems as well. The titles have not been meeting up to expectations for the core gamers that adopted early, and the casual gamers aren’t going to spend enough on the slow trickle of average games that are finding a way to integrate Kinect functionality. Granted, Skyrim and Mass Effect 3 both showed promise with their recent uses for the little camera that could, but they are core games that just take advantage of specific features.

With the huge disappointment in sales from the PS Vita, could this mean a change in the general type of gaming people look to now? Are iPads and smartphones taking over console market share? I’ve spent more time gaming on my iPad as of late than on my consoles. My kid lives on a counting game for iPad and Android. Then again, maybe I’m just bored of what is on the console right now. A new generation of systems, especially something like the Wii U, will change the way we game in a positive way. I’m not sure this drop in sales is all that surprising, but it is something to watch.

Also, does this put Sony and Nintendo in a position to take Microsoft’s 15 month winning streak trophy away? If they can beat the next Xbox to the stores, Microsoft may have some trouble regaining their footing. Then again, this may just be the norm for this time in a console life cycle. Time will tell, but without something new on the horizon, gamers are stuck with old tech to play their games.