That's right. Xbox 3. I am not going to call it the Xbox 720 as it's an awkward, nonsense name that Microsoft will 100% never ever use. We can put that rumour down right now.
There have been more and more reports that Microsoft will be releasing a new console soon - how soon is depending on whom you ask - which, given the age of the 360, makes perfect sense. Now, before we delve headlong into reveling in rumours, let this put things in perspective: The Xbox 360 is selling well. Microsoft is a money-making corporation, and there's little sense in replacing the goose that lays golden eggs before it's done laying them. Yes, graphically the console is lagging far behind the PC gaming set, but money talks and all shareholders usually want is to see the profits coming in. Besides, depending on whom you ask, the 360 is sure holding it's own against the PS3 in the graphical department. So Microsoft may be in no mood to rush the third Xbox.
Let's not kid ourselves, however. The end is nigh. While it's come sooner for the Wii than the 360 or PS3, for all of the current generation's consoles, there are more days behind than there are ahead. A lot more. Industry sales are falling year-over-year. The Wii U is a year away. So while the shareholders may be happy to see the profits that are, they've got to be asking what the plan is for the future - and development studios are itching for a new console generation to land so they can start using the shiny new tools that are being developed for it.
And that's what starts the rumour mill churning - and churning it is for the Xbox 3.
Reporting on an article from gamesindustry, Eurogamer is reporting that there will be two versions of the next Xbox - most likely arriving in 2013 -this time with substantial differences between them. One will be a simple set-top type unit organized around a Kinect interface. It sounds as though this would be Microsoft's answer to the blockbuster success of the Wii - a no-frills machine with an intuitive interface. Meanwhile, a second unit would be offered at a higher price, with a hard disk drive, backward compatibility with the 360, and an optical drive. Bad news for those of you longing to see the end of motion control: No matter which model of Xbox you will (allegedly) have the choice of, you're going to end up with Kinect in your living room. Frankly, I don't think it's much of a rumour at this point to say that motion control is going to be a constant in the next generation of consoles.
A report from Edge, however, is suggesting that the next iteration of the Xbox console is coming out in 2012, to compete with the Wii U. The suggestion is that Microsoft learned its lesson this generation that being first out of the gate leads to a desirable market share, and that Microsoft is worried that the Wii U would use its first year alone in the next-gen market to build a sales lead - not to go the way of the Dreamcast, killed in large part by the promise of the PlayStation 2. While I've read people in forums and talk-backs put out the idea that Microsoft and Sony might hold off on new consoles in an attempt to "leapfrog" over Nintendo and force them out of the market à la Sega, given that three successive generations ( Wii, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation, and some might even argue Super Nintendo and the NES) have proven that under-powered consoles can take the sales crown, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo would be well-advised to worry about who's first out of the gate. Further, Edge reports that Ubisoft Montréal is already working on third-generation Xbox games with development tools from Microsoft approximating what the finalized Xbox 3 dev kits will run like. This suggests that the next round for Microsoft could indeed be as little as a year away. Maybe not likely, but possible.
But what about that much-vaunted ten-year lifecycle Microsoft assured us the 360 would have? In August, the company
changed altered its tune: There's no reason, they're now saying, that the 360's and Xbox 3's lifecycles couldn't overlap. Meanwhile, the code-name "Loop" has been suggested for a new iteration of the Xbox, one which sounds much like the aforementioned "set-top" version. Meanwhile, others are claiming it's called "Project Ten" and that it will "go Apple," integrating Windows 8 and Windows Phone support, as well as embedding Silverlight into the system. This sounds a tad fishy, as all signs indicate that Microsoft is getting ready to euthanize Silverlight - after all, if Adobe is gearing down Flash in the face of HTML 5, what chance does Silverlight have? Regardless, there are more and more converging stories that there will be some kind of set-top Microsoft console coming in the next few years.
So when will we officially find out what's going down with the next Xbox(es)? Some are pointing to CES 2012, which takes place in January and sounds like a must if (and it's a huge "if") Microsoft intends to get its new system to market next year. A more traditional cycle would be to see news of the new Xbox at E3 2012 and see it released in later 2013. Frankly, it would be astonishing if neither Microsoft nor Sony announced any next-generation console news at E3 2012 to try to steal some headlines from the Wii U.
There's more out there if you want to snoop - tech specs, etc. - but at this point the majority of Xbox 3 rumours coming from reputable outlets aren't quite evolved yet, further suggesting we won't see a brand-new Microsoft console until 2013 or later.
We will, of course, keep you up-to-date as details begin to firm up.