The Xbox 720 rumor mill continues to churn at a furious pace. As more and more information comes to light, a late 2012 release for Microsoft's Xbox 360 successor appears increasingly likely, despite earlier reports that the console would launch late in 2013.
Following rumors that the Xbox 720 could be revealed at CES next January and that Microsoft is aiming for a smaller, cheaper console than they have delivered in the past comes news that some developers are already in possession of PC-based "target boxes" designed to approximate the specifications of the forthcoming hardware. Proper Xbox 720 development kits are expected to be available before Christmas.
An unidentified source has revealed to Edge that Ubisoft Montreal, developer of the Assassin's Creed games and the upcoming Rainbow Six: Patriots, is currently working with one of the "target boxes," which allegedly contains an AMD graphics processor. Select Electronic Arts studios (Tiburon? Visceral? Black Box?) are also believed to be working with the units.
A 2012 release for Xbox 720 obviously puts the system in direct competition with Nintendo's next console. Microsoft, it would seem, does not intend to let Wii U enter the marketplace unchallenged. But if Xbox 720 was originally on track for a late 2013 launch, can its games possibly be ready a full year ahead of schedule?
Rare is rumored to be working on a "Mature" title for Xbox 720, and Ubisoft and EA can't be the only third-parties with "target boxes." Activision studios (Treyarch, maybe?) must be developing Xbox 720 games, as well. Yet despite the yearly sequels that drive our industry, coming to grips with brand new hardware takes time. If the Xbox 720 launch games suffer as a result of a shorted development schedule, what will Microsoft have gained?
Then there is the matter of Sony. It has been widely speculated that PlayStation 4 would launch before Xbox 720. Will that still be the case if Microsoft's next Xbox releases next year? To be clear, Sony can ill afford to sit on the sidelines while both Microsoft and Nintendo introduce new consoles. The worry is that delivering both Vita and PS4 in 2012 may simply be too much, too soon for Sony and its stable of developers.
For now, every bit of Xbox 720 information remains decidedly in the realm of rumor and speculation. The Xbox 720 may release next year, or it may not. It may support physical and digital media equally, or it may not. That said, the sheer volume of reports suggest that things are irrevocably in motion -- the next generation is coming, maybe much sooner than we all thought.
Ranters, do you believe that the Xbox 720 and a group of solid launch titles could be ready by next Fall? Which games are you hoping for?
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