Rumor: Microsoft’s Xbox Next Game Console Spotted in Wild

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We know Nintendo plans to unveil its Wii follow-up at E3 next month, but what’s this about Microsoft handing off its Xbox successor today?

[UPDATE: EA tells Industry Gamers “This story is a total fabrication – 100 percent not true.”]

No joke: according to industry biz site Develop, Microsoft’s Xbox Next has arrived, and it’s already in the hands of an unidentified (and, if true, leaky) Electronic Arts studio.

Think very early, as in “cave-PC era” on the development timescale (most analysts put launch dates for new Microsoft or Sony consoles out to 2013 or 2014). Develop’s source says it’s basically the system’s guts in a PC shell. Like the current model, in other words, only without the stylish beveled edges, green-lit leds, and sexy fan-fins.

Why so early? To get a handle on the new software development framework, sounds like. Also because the next Xbox could launch sooner than expected. Develop’s source (though it now seems wrongly) predicts the console’s due to announce this E3 and launch already late next year.

Will it be super-fast? Run on tap-water? Power your house? Jack into the back of your head? Maybe not. Develop says it’s hearing we’re looking at “enhanced support for Kinect with just a couple of alterations.”

Yeah, I’m thinking this one’s not really newsworthy either, but considering how crazy gamers get about alterations of less than a degree in rumor-weather, better to acknowledge “yep, heard that one already” than wave it off with too dismissive a hand.