With days to go in 2013 and reports of an overly sluggish holiday season for the video game console business, all eyes, ears and noses in the rumor mill are turned towards Microsoft, Sony, and their next-gen console plans. When will we hear about Orbis, the popular codename for Sony’s fourth generation PlayStation? When will Durango, Microsoft’s would be Xbox 720, pop its head above ground? A good bet is spring time after the 2013 fiscal year comes to a close and before the summer convention circuit starting with E3. Between now and then, though, loose lips inside the industry will continue to tease.
Bloomberg reported at the end of November that its sources are positive that Microsoft will deliver the next Xbox by Thanksgiving 2013 alongside the next generation of Kinect motion control devices and a possible stripped down console meant as a television set top box for downloadable games and streaming video. What will people be playing on that machine when it drops in time for next Christmas? Inside of all the rumor and speculation are actually solid hints as to what will debut alongside the next Xbox.
* Kinect Sports 3 and Perfect Dark 3
Rare Ltd., creators of Killer Instinct, Banjo Kazooie, and Microsoft’s long lost Viva Pinata series, is hard at work on the Xbox 720. The company’s been hiring for next-gen projects throughout 2012. The most recent job postings point to a new sequel for Kinect Sports as the Microsof-owned studio is looking for a principal network services engineer who will “push the boundaries of the Kinect hardware with our exciting new project.” Motion-controlled family titles are just the beginning, though, as Rare is also hiring engineers with experience on more traditional games like the company’s Perfect Dark shooters. A May posting called for a software engineer who would be “joining at a time when the studio is looking to move into new area and develop new IPs for future platforms” and must have a “history of releasing exceptional AAA games and these will ideally be in the Action/Adventure or FPS genres.”
One of the most reliable sources of Xbox 720 news has been accidentally leaked legal documents and company memos, like the 2010 Microsoft manifesto laying out the Xbox brand roadmap into the next decade. The juiciest leaks haven’t come from Microsoft, but its former partner Bungie Studios and Activision. The contract between the Call of Duty publisher and the Halo creators was accidentally released this past spring and it explicitly named Bungie’s new MMO shooter Destiny (pictured above) as an Xbox 720 title due in 2013. The sci-fi shooter set on a future earth, whose story was detailed in another leak, is actually the first in a trilogy of games for Xbox 720. The 2013 game will also be available for Xbox 360 according to Bungie’s contract.
* Unnamed Black Tusk title.
Destiny may not be the only game to bridge the generational gap between Xbox 360 and Xbox 720. Microsoft’s recently opened studio Black Tusk is also working on a new series for the company that will begin life on the 360. Black Tusk opened at the end of November, led by former EA developer Mike Crump who said the team is developing Microsoft’s next major core gaming series. “We are working on Microsoft’s next big entertainment franchise,” said Crump, “We’re not working on an existing franchise, we’re looking to build the next Halo here in Vancouver, which is really exciting. We are building something from the ground up.” New core franchises were foundational to Xbox 360s success, particularly Gears of War.