[Update 2: EA has gone back on its no-comment stance and now claims the article published below is '100 per cent untrue'. Develop's source insists the story is accurate.]
The successor to the Xbox 360 console is on desks at an unnamed Electronic Arts studio, Develop understands.
The new hardware, sent to EA last month, is a very early build with no casing – it is in fact being stored inside a PC shell.
EA developers are getting to grips with the tech to create first-generation software, Develop has been told.
“Quite often when new consoles come around they’re packaged into a PC shell, but actually what’s inside is an entirely new console,” a senior, trusted, well-placed source said.
Microsoft has declined to comment. EA has declined to comment. Develop’s source is not employed at either company.
The source believed, but did not have certain information, that the new Xbox would launch by the end of 2012. The individual expects an announcement will be made, at least in some form, at E3.
[Update: A seperate inside source has told Eurogamer that an E3 reveal for the new system is "highly unlikely"]
In March, new data revealed Microsoft was at the early stages in building the successor to the Xbox 360.
The platform owner had advertised new job vacancies such as Graphics Hardware Architect and Performance Engineer for the Xbox Console Architecture Group.
Microsoft’s new hires will be “responsible for defining and delivering next generation console architectures from conception through implementation,” the company said.
The language of the job vacancies suggested a reveal for the console is years away, but Develop’s source says a shock reveal could be weeks away.
“Why let Nintendo steal the thunder in June [At E3]? It doesn’t want to lose momentum. That’s why I think Microsoft is rushing to make an announcement at E3.”
It leads to suspicion that key next-gen projects are underway at Microsoft’s own internal studios. Some project names Develop has seen would suggest a change of guard.
Specifications for the device are not available, for now. Develop understands that the hardware will feature enhanced support for Kinect with just a couple of alterations.
Over 52 million Xbox consoles have been sold since the system’s launch in May 2005.
Microsoft’s innovative motion controller, Kinect, launched November last year and has buoyed the console’s appeal.
Ten million Kinect units were sold worldwide as of March this year.
“Kinect will keep the 360 going for a couple of years, but Microsoft knows that if it slows down now it will face trouble,” the source added.