Source: See below.
What we heard: Someone at Xbox Live is getting fired. At least, that appears to be the case if a leaked screen that has surfaced on the blog All Games Beta is legitimate.
Yesterday, the self-described "11th-hour delay" pushed Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski's mystery game announcement on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon until Monday, April 12. The title in question had widely been assumed to be Gears of War 3--so assumed, in fact, that Edge magazine has already posted leaked details about the title.
However, it looks like a staffer at Xbox Live didn't get the memo. AGB is displaying a screen, which it claims appeared on the online service last night. "Gears of War 3 announced," trumpets the image on the Xbox Live menu bar, "the epic story concludes April 2011." Currently, the image is no longer visible.
The official story: "We have made no official announcements, but please stay tuned."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus. Sure, the image could be easily faked, but plans about a third installment in the series have been around for years. As far back as November 2006, Microsoft has been making references to a "Gears of War Trilogy."
Also, Edge reported back in March that Microsoft plans to release Gears of War in April 2011. The company apparently pushed the game out of 2010 so it wouldn't divert consumer dollars from the fall launch of Project Natal, the Xbox 360's camera-based motion-sensing system.
However, the first quarter of 2011 is when Electronic Arts will publish a still-untitled shooter from Epic Games' Polish studio People Can Fly, maker of the Painkiller games. Releasing Gears of War 3 during that quarter would pit one Epic game against another--something the cash-flush North Carolinian studio and Unreal Engine 3-maker wouldn't tolerate.
Last but not least, not making Gears of War 3 would be economic folly for Microsoft. The first two games have been massive hits, with Gears of War 2 topping 5 million units sold worldwide and the original selling over 3.2 million copies in the US alone.
There's also the matter of ancillary revenue from Gears of War novels, comic books, and a film adaptation, although the latter has apparently run into production issues of late. To quote Danny DeVito in the David Mamet film Heist, "Everyone needs money. That's why they call it 'money.'"
[UPDATE] Following the publication of this report, numerous GameSpot users have reported seeing the same announcement on Xbox Live this morning. So, not bogus!