Xbox 720
Sources familiar with the company's plans have reportedly said Microsoft's Xbox 720 could debut during the holidays in 2013. IBTimes

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console is still leading the U.S. video game hardware market, but the company may be preparing to launch another major release. Rumors about the next-generation Xbox 720 have been circulating for quite some time, and now a Microsoft executive may have tipped that the release date could be revealed soon.

Xbox Live chief Larry Hryb, better known by his alias Major Nelson, posted a countdown to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in June. While he didn’t explicitly mention a new Xbox in his blog post, the countdown can only mean one thing—Microsoft is planning to reveal something big at E3 2013.

“And it’s on…” Hryb wrote alongside the countdown.

At the time of reporting Hryb’s countdown clock sits at 158 days, 16 hours and seven minutes, with the second and milliseconds decreasing with each passing moment. Below the post, fans began to speculate about what this timer could possibly be winding down to. Most of the discussion seemed focused on the Xbox 720, while a few comments mentioned that a second-generation Kinect could be in the works.

Interestingly enough, as Microsoft alludes that a big announcement will come this summer, the company has purchased media startup R2 Studios. R2 has previously worked on media-streaming and space-age home automation technology, according to the Wall Street Journal. The report did not mention how much Microsoft paid for the company, but it did reveal that the Windows maker beat rival tech firms Apple and Google to the purchase. R2 specializes in enhanced technology for displaying digital media on televisions, and it had also previously dabbled in futuristic home automation.

While there’s no guarantee that R2’s technology will be implemented into the next Xbox, the company’s specialties do seem to fit with that we’ve heard about the Xbox 720 thus far. Based on the alleged leaks and documents pertaining to the Xbox 720 until this point, Microsoft appears to have some ambitious aspirations for its next console. The following clues that have surfaced over the past several months lead us to believe that the next Xbox will be way more than just a video game console.

Teases from Microsoft executives. This week a Microsoft employee closely tied to the Xbox posted a countdown to E3 2013, and just as E3 2012 approached last spring another executive dropped some hints. Posting to Microsoft’s official blog, Yusuf Mehdi spoke vaguely on the next Xbox writing the following.

“Having recently joined the team, I have the benefit of a fresh perspective,” Mehdi wrote in May in a post titled ‘Xbox Beyond The Box.’ “And one of the things that struck me is the amount of opportunities we have ahead…We’ve got ideas for making all the entertainment you love more personal, interactive and social across the devices you love—and on the phenomenal Windows 8 devices that are to come.”

The entire post, which can be read in full here, was reflective on how the Xbox has evolved into a multimedia entertainment center.

‘Leaked’ Microsoft documents. Over the summer, an alleged internal Microsoft document was reportedly uncovered. The 56-page paperwork dated back to 2010 and detailed the company’s plans for a next-generation video game console. It mentioned the launch of a Microsoft-branded TV service for the Xbox as well as several other new features such as a Blu-ray drive and native 3D capabilities. The alleged new system will also feature a pair of eyeglasses based on its popular motion gaming device, the Kinect. Referred to as Kinect Shades, this eyewear was described as an augmented-reality accessory that would allow several people to experience the same three-dimensional image at the same time.

“The game has broken out of the screen and is all around you,” the document read, echoing the concept shown in a patent that would emerge online only months later.

The document was posted on hosting site Scribd but has since been removed.

Augmented reality patents. Back in September we learned about a Microsoft patent that revealed plans to create a fully immersive video game environment. The schematics included in the patent filing depicted a display environment that resembled a traditional living room, complete with furniture, walls and an HD TV. The accompanying diagram showed a video game console that outputs a primary image on to the television while projecting peripheral images on other surfaces in the room described above.

The scenario in the image appeared to show a gamer playing a first person shooter video game. The player is focused on the primary images shown on the TV, and the environmental display is connected to what is possibly the Xbox 720. The peripheral image is an extension of what players see on the television screen, creating a full scale video game ecosystem.

To see the diagrams and schematics in full, visit Patently Apple here.

These are only a few of the many alleged “leaks” that have plagued the Internet in recent months, but they do seem to be the most credible and the most interesting. Only time will tell if Microsoft unveils the Xbox 720 in June, but it seems that the company’s next console could have a lot to live up to. Last month Bloomberg reported that Microsoft would be planning an Xbox 720 launch just in time for the holiday season in late 2013.