A “senior, trusted” source at Electronic Arts has told gaming site Develop that EA already has the guts of the next Xbox sitting inside a PC shell at an EA studio, and is beginning to figure out how to build games for it.The report also says that Microsoft might make a surprise announcement of the next Xbox at the E3 gaming expo next month. Nintendo has said it will have a playable version of its next console at the show, and the EA source speculates that Microsoft doesn’t want Nintendo to have the spotlight to itself. The console could come out as soon as 2012 — around the time that Windows 8 is slated to arrive.
The first part of the rumour could be true. It’s possible that the Xbox hardware team has made some preliminary decisions about the chipset it’s going to use in the next console, and has sent an early prototype to EA for testing or early feedback.
But sources tell us that an E3 announcement and 2012 release is very unlikely.
Kinect has revitalized the Xbox business — unit sales in the first quarter of 2011 were up 80%, revenue was up 70%, and it’s earned more than $1 billion in profit over the last four quarters. And all that is before Sony’s recent security problems, which are like an early Christmas gift to the Xbox. There’s no reason for Microsoft reset the console life cycle by rushing a console out early.
Earlier this year, Microsoft posted some job ads that suggested it’s just starting to plan the next Xbox now, and looking at a release date of 2014 or later. Microsoft’s board of directors has reportedly discussed whether Microsoft should subsidise the hardware like it did for the launches of the original Xbox and Xbox 360, or whether it should build lower-cost hardware that can be sold at a profit on day one.