There is no questioning that a successor to the Xbox 360 is in the works. We've seen more than enough indications of that and it simply makes sense that an Xbox Next, Xbox 720, or whatever you want to call it is being developed by Microsoft. What we can't say for sure is when the system will be launched or even revealed, although according to a new report, the answer to both of those questions is 2013.
A report by Develop based on numerous sources suggests the third Xbox will be unveiled at E3 in 2013. The system will then be launched several months later across much of the world; the possibility of this slipping into early 2014 was acknowledged as a possibility. One would hope Microsoft takes the time it needs and doesn't repeat its mistakes with the Xbox 360 that led to the Red Ring of Death fiasco.
Microsoft, as expected, wouldn't comment on the development of a new system.
This isn't the first time a timeline for the 360's successor has been mentioned -- earlier this year we heard that Microsoft and Sony most likely wouldn't release new consoles until 2014, or 2013 at the earliest. Job listings were posted seeking engineers to work on a new Xbox earlier this year, and we've since seen resumes that include work on the next-gen system.
A separate report earlier this year indicated Electronic Arts already had access to an early version of the new console. EA adamantly denied this was true, and given that the source who leaked this information expected the system to be announced at this year's E3 and released by the end of 2012, belief in this particular rumor was hard to rationalize. Develop's new report mentions how a source claims EA does have the new hardware in some form.
An alleged source within Crysis maker Crytek stated in June the new Xbox would "likely" be revealed at E3 in 2012. The developer later officially denied that it had any next-gen hardware from Microsoft, knowledge of it, or information on Microsoft's plans.
Lionhead, which is currently at work on Fable: The Journey for Kinect, is said to be working on a brand-new Fable game, known internally as Fable Next, that would launch on the new Xbox. Also of note is the fact that the next iteration of the Unreal Engine may be ready sooner than the 2014 date Epic Games has previously cited.
It's not just Microsoft that's ramping up development for its next console, either. A source has told Develop that multiple Sony first-party studios have begun working on PlayStation 4 games. That's not to say they're anywhere near done or would be launching in the next year or two; there was no indication that a PS4 would be out sooner than 2014, which falls in with what we heard earlier this year about a launch in 2014.
Sony has suggested the PS4 is still far off, although Taiwanese component makers have led some to believe the system will be out next year, a scenario that is incredibly difficult to believe. We do, however, know Sony is interested in getting game makers to help out with the creation of new hardware, so getting first-party studios working on games early on would fit in with that.
At this point these are all rumors, albeit rumors that make a fair amount of sense. With things still so far away, though, we won't be getting official word on any of it -- Xbox Next or PS4 -- for quite some time.