It looks like we may get a peek at Microsoft’s Xbox 360 follow-up when E3 2012 rolls around next June. That would put the Xbox “720″ (or whatever—let’s just hope not “You,” We,” or “Us”) squarely in competition with Nintendo’s Wii U rollout, if rumors about Nintendo’s spring-summer launch timeframe for it’s own next-gen console prove true.
(More on TIME.com: Sega Says ‘Wii U’ Out Between May and August 2012)
VideoGamer says it got the Xbox sequel scoop straight from “a high-ranking industry source” at Crytek, the studio behind sci-fi shooters Crysis and Crysis 2. Crytek’s reportedly developing a new TimeSplitters first-person shooter, and using Microsoft’s DirectX 11 in the bargain. DirectX 11′s notable mostly for features like tessellation (breaking polygons into pieces to allow much more detailed and realistic mapping), multithreaded rendering (meaning simply faster rendering), and compute shaders (another rendering performance booster).
Nerdy geek-speak for “a whole lot better looking,” in other words.
Look for Microsoft to unveil its new Xbox “within the next 12 months,” according to VG‘s source, probably at E3 2012, giving it an edge over Sony (Microsoft’s Xbox 360 launched in 2005, a year before both the Wii and PlayStation 3). Sony has said repeatedly that its PlayStation 3 is on a 10-year trajectory, making a 2012 successor announcement unlikely, and VG’s source says Microsoft wants to once more beat Sony off the block.
(More on TIME.com: E3 2011 Interview: Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Talks About ‘Wii U’)
Here’s the intriguing part: VG wonders what such an announcement bodes for Halo 4, announced during E3 2011 as the start of a new trilogy and shipping “holiday 2012.” Is it an Xbox 360 game, or an Xbox-Whatever’s-Next launch title?
It has to be the former, right? Microsoft wouldn’t break stride at this point. Not with the Xbox 360 grabbing sales records and outpacing both the Wii and PS3 in monthly units moved. No, the chance Microsoft would launch a new Xbox next year is roughly zero. Microsoft may preempt Sony in the building-up-hype department, but given reports that the Wii U isn’t dramatically more powerful than either the Xbox 360 or PS3—and considered in light of Kinect’s relatively recent appearance—I’m betting the Xbox 360′s here to stay for at least two more years. I’d wager late 2013 as the next Xbox’s entry point, if not later still.