Well there's a bit more information out about the announcement. Johnny Kitagawa himself was at the theater for Shounentachi and made the announcement himself while there. He says that the group could start activities as soon as 2012 and hinted at having them go overseas but he's waiting on Kawai Fumito to fully recover first, as he's still out because of his injury.
Momoedgewood's blog (English)
A quick note before I go to far in, because A.B.C-xyZ is a bit of a pain to type over and over again I'm just to shorten it to A-Z, as I just doesn't seem right to call this new formation the usual A.B.C-Z nickname of Ebi.
I've noticed articles saying that A.B.C-Z is four members but I think I finally figured out why. Since Kawai's out because of his injury they are only counting the current active members.
Also checking out other English language blogs I've found more information from the articles. The group is going to have a V6/HSJ-like set up with there being two divisions based on age. The original A.B.C. will most likely be one, with Hasshi and the two new members being the other. They also will be a unit that can perform as only four members, which is actually something similar to pre-hiatus NEWS where that group often performed as only six members instead of the full eight.
Also Kikuchi is only reported to be a candidate to be a new member but even if he joins the group he'll be in both A.B.C-xyZ and B.I. Shadow. (The cynic in me doesn't see that actually happening for long before he would get pulled out of BIS for A-Z if he is picked and they debut.)
To be perfectly honest I'm still dumbstruck about this news. I know it's just Johnny informing everyone for his plans for the group so it's not set in stone yet, but there's no way something won't come out of this. I think this will be much like his talk of continuing NYC boys in a different fashion and then us getting NYC from that. But this seems to be more out of the blue than that.
And it's not how sudden this announcement came about, Johnny's is all about the surprise announcements after all, but rather that when you look at A.B.C-Z's activities it doesn't make a lot of sense to debut them now. In comparison Hey! Say! JUMP and Kis-My-Ft2 made sense when it came to debuts.
HSJ was the volleyball support group that is created about every four years after the last. The members made sense as they had the original five from Hey! Say! 7 (Yamada, Chinen, Nakajima, Takaki & Arioka) who had just sold a very good number of units of their CD Hey! Say! for a Junior group and proved that they can sell. Bringing Yabu and Hikaru into the group made sense too as they were a couple of the most popular Juniors of the time and I know Inoo had some popularity to back him up he also had a history of being favored as a Junior. Undoubtedly Keito being the son of a Johnny's is what got him into the group. And Ryutaro you can assume was added because he was often placed with Yamada, Chinen and Nakajima and with his age he could help bring the group's age average down so they could do the claim of them being the youngest debut for a boy band.
Kis-My-Ft2 made sense because you can see the slow build to it. Starting with the joint Kis-My-Ft2/A.B.C-Z concert then followed by solo national tours. Members were getting drama roles, performing on Music Station, getting a CM deal and the group were starring in butais instead of just being support in them. By the time Misaki No.1 came around and you had Kitayama and Fujigaya starring in it things looked clear that they had been set up for a debut and it would make less sense if they didn't.
On the other hand A.B.C-Z/A.B.C-xyZ doesn't really have those things backing them up. They have done more butai work, especially with Shounentachi and the Junior concerts they've been producing these past two summers but that's about it. Hashimoto has a bit more promotion as I remember him being on MSte with the other Juniors back in 2009 when they did a performance there. And he's done a few performances on Shounen Club without the rest of the group so it does make a bit of sense for him to debut, as he's received a bit more promotion than the rest of the group. But even so his debut would only make sense if it was with a group of Juniors that have members that have been promoted much more than that. Which then makes Fuma's addition make a little sense but not as much as having a Junior like Nakajima Kento getting added. Both get quite a bit of promotion and have NYC boys, some drama work (especially with Nakaken) so it would make sense for them to debut but to have Fuma debut over Nakaken seems odd. I can't think of any other Junior that has been promoted a lot recently to fill the other spot so I think it's quite up in the air who it will be.
And for those wondering why I'm harping about dramas being a big thing it's because it's one of the big ways that Johnny's uses to grow the fanbase and increase popularity of certain members of a group. While butais and concerts are good and all they stand to be more of a measure of the fanbase of a group or individuals if they are selling goods for individual members. They don't really grow the fanbase so much as who would go to a butai or concert without already being a fan, especially considering the price of a ticket. Dramas and movies are set for the general public and can be used to draw in new fans as people watch them and hopefully get interested in the actors and go out to learn more about them. It's pretty much why you can easily tell who the most popular member of any Johnny's group is by looking at who has done the most drama work for the most part. And it's also why the drama roles, especially for Misaki No.1, were such a telling sign of a debut for Kisumai, as they showed that Johnny's was trying to expand on their fanbase and get them to be better known to the general public. So unless there will be a drama that will star members of this A-Z group soon I will be questioning to why it's being formed and debuted.
Then there's the wording of 'going major'. I don't think I've ever seen it used except for a career debut so I don't think holding on to the hope this will be a one shot debut, like NYC boys, is going to get anyone anywhere. Though Johnny has not always been the most accurate news source, he was the one who said HSB would be the more active division of HSJ as HS7 focused on their studies after all, so until more information comes out Junior fans are bound to be anxious about what it means. I know I am.
Though despite it all I will say that I am happy for the boys who will debut. The original Ebi members have been with Johnny's for so long so there can't be any saying that they haven't worked hard for this. Hasshi has come a long way since he joined the group about three years ago and as I mentioned before I always saw him as a potential debut. I do like Fuma and while I'd rather have him stay with BIS I'll still be happy for him to debut with A-Z and whoever will debut as well I'll be happy for them as well as I don't think there is a Junior I don't like. Though I do hope there will be a Kansai Junior debuting with this group as the most recent Shounen Club episodes show there are plenty of talented Kansai Juniors that should get the chance to debut.
I guess if anything this announcement is proof of how unpredictable the world of Johnny's can be.