Published: December 7, 2011 3:30 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
Rumours about a new XBOX have been coming in thick and fast over the last few weeks. Although some are evidently more reliable than others, these rumours do offer an interesting insight into what could be in store if Microsoft does release a new games console—already being dubbed the 'XBOX 720' and 'XBOX Next'. Let's take a look at some of the main ideas out there at the moment.

Although we're not big fans of peddling rumours, there's so much talk of a new Microsoft console at the moment that we think it's worth examining the various theories. With the upcoming Wii U now delayed until late 2012, Microsoft has room to manoeuvre and time to take the market by surprise with a follow-up to the successful XBOX 360 console.

What's In A Name?

After the XBOX and the XBOX 360, some rumours suggest that an upcoming third version of Microsoft's console could be called the XBOX 720. At least, that's what's been spotted in the trailer for the film Real Steel. Although it's probably unlikely that Microsoft would drop the name 'XBOX', we'd be surprised to see a new console given quite as unoriginal a name as the '720'. Another alterative that's been floating around the web is the 'XBOX Next'.

Presentation at E3 2012 or CES 2012?

We could be set to find out more about Microsoft's console soon, as some analysts are predicting its release towards the end of 2012, so as not to be overtaken by Nintendo's Wii U. The more optimistic among them have even suggested that a new XBOX could be unveiled at the upcoming CES technology show in January, which seems a little premature given that the XBOX 360 is still selling well and that the final Wii U is set to be presented at the E3 in June 2012.

As for Sony, Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), recently commented that it would be 'undesirable to be significantly later than the competition' with the release of a PlayStation 4. Bearing in mind that the Wii U is pencilled in for the end of 2012, we could therefore see signs of a PS4 coming in 2013, unless Sony changes its plans.

Biding Time, Maximising Profitability

Others, however, dismiss the rumours as hot air, claiming that Microsoft and Sony aren't likely to unveil any new products while their current consoles are still selling well. This theory holds up, as XBOX 360 and PS3 graphics won't look completely outdated next to the Wii U, as while Nintendo's new console will certainly be more powerful, it'll be built on a similar architecture to the XBOX 360. Sony and Microsoft could therefore hold off releasing a new console and maximise the profitability of their current models while they're still selling well, rather than seeking to rival Nintendo at all costs.

Two Versions?

Like the XBOX 360, Microsoft could be planning to release two versions of the 'XBOX Next'. While both will apparently be equipped with Kinect 2 systems, the cheaper option could end up being something like the OnLive console, for playing streamed games rather than physically purchased games. That's surprising, since you'd need a heck of a fast broadband connection (with a super-high bitrate) to handle data from the Kinect 2 plus HD graphics. The pricier model would apparently be a more complete console, with a hard drive, an optical drive and backwards compatibility with XBOX 360 games.

Developers On The Case

While it clearly takes a fair bit of time to develop a new games console, it also takes time to develop games for a new platform. Logically then, if a new console is in the pipeline, the big games studios would already have received the first software development kits. According to EDGE magazine, Ubisoft and some other major developers have, in fact, now received Microsoft's latest SDK. Ubisoft, however, refused to comment on the matter, as the use of any development kits for upcoming platforms is highly confidential.

Don't forget that that all of this is mere speculation. First of all, it's important to bear in mind that work on new consoles often starts as soon as a previous model is released. Plus, even if a new XBOX is in the pipeline, no-one can officially confirm anything about it until Microsoft gives it the green light. At this rate, the situation isn't likely to look much clearer until well into 2012, which means you've still got plenty of time to get stuck into the latest games on current consoles!

 
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