The news that a Microsoft employee had publicly referenced the existence of a “new Xbox” spread rapidly across video game media outlets and blogs this past Monday. Microsoft Windows Live General Manager Brian Hall’s perceived reference to a next-gen home gaming platform to succeed the Xbox 360, released in November 2005, in the same breath as talk about Windows 8 would have marked the first time anyone working for the console holder acknowledged its existence. However, the publisher has since spoken with IGN about what most believed was an accidental slip of the tongue by Hall and said his words had been misunderstood by the media.
“The comments to The Verge were not understood in their intended context,” reads the statement Microsoft issued. “When Brian [Hall] mentioned a ‘new wave of products,’ he was referring to the full lineup of products coming later this year from Microsoft, including Windows 8, Office, Windows Phone and of course our fall Xbox update which will bring a host of new consumer experiences like Xbox Music, Videos, Games on Windows 8 and Xbox SmartGlass.”
That’s it then, right? Case closed. There is no new Xbox. Never was, never will be. Except for that there is. Proving as much isn’t really possible, but, in addition to the fact that there must be one simply because creating new consoles every several years is just what’s done in this industry, there are a number of reasons to believe the follow-up to the 360 is a thing. Epic has released sizzle footage of its next middleware engine, Unreal 4, in action. Ubisoft and LucasArts showed off games this past E3 that are all but confirmed to be coming to the PS4 and Xbox 720 (Watch Dogs and Star Wars 1313, respectively). A little while back, Kotaku‘s Stepen Totilo even went ahead and said, “people are making video games for the next PlayStation and the next Xbox.”
Microsoft’s next home gaming platform is not coming out this fall, of course, but the notion that no one at Microsoft is working in some capacity on a new console is ludicrous. Clearly Microsoft has no desire to talk about it in any on-the-record capacity, though, and it moved pretty quickly to quash this most recent seemingly solid reference to the machine, likely because it desires to keep consumers focused entirely on the Xbox 360 and its fall 2012 lineup.
And yet it was just this past June that what appeared to be a very early internal marketing document discussing general ideas about what was actually referred to in name as the “Xbox 720” turned up. It could not be verified as to whether or not the doc was actually genuine, but legal action that successfully removed it from its original home on the internet taken by a law firm that represents Microsoft lent serious credence to its legitimacy. It’s important to understand that absolutely nothing was confirmed; however, it’s equally important not to ignore the whole thing just because a company that doesn’t want to talk about it isn’t talking about it.
The closer Microsoft keeps this thing to its chest, the stronger the desire among gamers to discover what’s really going on grows. If the Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera’s statements in his most recent article are to be believed, then it’s not actually hard at all to find out about the next round of platforms. “The open secret in the game industry right now is that it’s fairly easy to find out data about the next generation of consoles,” explained Kuchera, “but it’s much harder to get that data in a way you can discuss.” As a result, the conversation revolves around rumors from supposed insiders alleging things like a 2013 launch and a Blu-ray drive for something that may or may not be code-named “Durango.”
It’s a game that is played on the eve of every new console announcement. The difference this time around is that the eve has stretched on far longer than most outsiders’ clocks implied it would. Seven years is a long time to stay quiet, but Microsoft isn’t the only one bottling up. Aside from some remarks about being more concerned with being the best than being first, Microsoft’s competitor has also gotten on board with the first rule of Next Generation Club being that you don’t talk about Next Generation Club. Kotaku asked John Koller, Sony’s director of hardware marketing, if he was permitted to let the words “PlayStation 4” escape from his lips. His response? “We’re not talking about any of that.”
And so the stare-down continues. Unless someone pulls off a serious feat of investigative journalism or some executive makes a slip-up, gamers aren’t likely to get undeniable proof of the next Xbox’s existence before the year is out. Wait, what next-gen Xbox? There is no new Xbox. Never was, never will be.