Timing of Microsoft’s “Xbox 720” Hinted at in Lawsuit

Microsoft is not saying when it will be unveiling a new Xbox console, except to say that it won’t be at the E3 game conference next month.

Now there’s some additional information on timing, thanks to a lawsuit between Activision and some former employees.

According to confidential agreements unsealed in the court case, Microsoft’s next game console, which is referred to as the “Xbox 720,” could be released in time for the 2013 holiday season.

The Los Angeles Times originally posted the documents on Monday, but it was Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times who came up with the theory on the timing.

The lawsuit is a complicated tale, involving Activision’s insanely successful first-person shooter Call of Duty. Former Activision developers are claiming they are owed hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and bonus payments. Activision is claiming breach of contract.

The documents, revealed last week, detail a high-profile deal between Bungie and Activision in 2010.

The 27-page agreement calls for Bungie to develop four “sci-fantasy, action shooter games,” code-named “Destiny,” released every other year, beginning in the fall of 2013, according to the Los Angeles Times. Additionally, Bungie agreed to put out four downloadable expansion packs code-named “Comet.”

Bungie is the developer behind the successful Halo franchise, but is not the developer behind Halo 4, which Microsoft is developing and releasing in November.

Here’s what Dudley is suggesting based on the contract language:

Microsoft hasn’t said when the next version of the Xbox will go on sale, but the Bungie contract suggests that it could happen in the 2013 holiday season, with “Destiny” as a key launch title. That would be similar to the way Halo was a cornerstone of the first Xbox launch in November 2001.

An Xbox spokesman declined to comment on this theory, and referred questions to Activision and Bungie.

The document also says the game is expected to be released for the PlayStation 3 successor in the fall of 2014.

The big caveat to all of this guesswork is that the document is now two years old, so timing could easily change. Additionally, the name “Xbox 720” could just be a code name or placeholder. Of course, console makers keep the timing of their upcoming hardware close to their vests, so that consumers don’t hold off on making purchases.

In March, Microsoft’s Corporate Communications boss Frank Shaw told AllThingsD that consumers probably shouldn’t expect new hardware at the E3 game conference, or “anytime soon.”

“For us, 2012 is all about Xbox 360,” he added.

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