Microsoft has successfully extended the life of the Xbox 360 thanks to the introduction of their hands-free motion control device, Kinect, and growth in support for exclusive titles for the device. It allowed them to be the only company of the “big three” at E3 2011 to not have new hardware to showcase. Sony brought the PlayStation Vita handheld and Nintendo teased the Wii U, so what’s next for Microsoft and what we’re curious about, when?

Do we expect them to come to E3 2012 with just games and system updates again, or after 7 years, will it be time to finally show their next console?

We think they’re going with the latter and will unveil the Xbox 360 successor – which we’ll refer to as the Xbox 720 until it’s officially named – next year. Recent rumors also point towards that being the case, ever since it seemed that Microsft was hiring people to work on the next console back in March.

In May, video games industry analysts Bill Pidgeon shared his thoughts on the matter, explaining that if sales for the Xbox 360 drop off towards the end of this year, Microsoft will surely unveil its successor at E3 2012. We know they’re working on the console and there were rumors around the same time that some major publishers already had in their possession, dev kits of the Xbox 720. More recently, rumors also pointed towards Crytek developing TimeSplitters 4 for the next Xbox but in all cases, the rumors were of course, denied.

Xbox 720 Concept Art

Fan-made Xbox 720 Concept Art

Some insiders claim that both Sony and Microsoft won’t launch their new consoles until 2014 but with the Wii U debuting next year, that may be a tad bit off, especially for Microsoft, whose console wasn’t initially expected to last as long. 2014 seems like a long way away but it falls in line with what Xbox MEA Vice President Chris Lewis said last week about the console only being “halfway” through its life cycle. However, if a new Xbox debuted in 2013 let’s say, that doesn’t mean the Xbox 360’s life would end right then and there.

It’s very plausible that the Xbox 720 will be unveiled at E3 2012 with a planned release the following year. The latest rumor from BGR and their “source with knowledge of Microsoft’s plans” claims that the plan is in fact, for the next console to be presented at the big expo in 2012 so we’ll be there unsurprised if it happens. I actually expect it to be made official next year.

Such a console should be entirely backwards compatible with the Xbox 360 games line-up, hopefully supporting the same controllers, Kinect and Xbox Live accounts, thus allowing for a smooth transition and less complications for casual gamers. Will the Xbox 720 attempt to introduce a new controller/tablet design like the Wii U, perhaps something else that’s entirely unique, or will it focus on system power, social functions and graphics?

What do you want from the Xbox 720?

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Source: BGR

Xbox 720 concept art by djeric, Xbox power button art by nemethigabor.