Source: Tech blog TG Daily.
What we heard: Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled Project Natal at its press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Though eager to show off its motion and emotion-sensing capabilities, developers such as Kudo Tsunoda and Peter Molyneux carefully avoided any mention of a release date. The closest thing to such an announcement was the mention that Natal dev kits are already in the hands of third-party developers, with Bungie and Epic Games being specifically named later on during the expo.
This afternoon, though, the Internet lit up with reports of a new Xbox 360 which incorporates Natal's camera. All those reports stem from a single source, an article on tech blog TG Daily. Under the banner headline "Ballmer announces 2010 Xbox 360 at The Executive Club Chicago," the site reported that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had let slip that "a new Xbox 360 will hit the store shelves in 2010" at a presentation at the Executive's Club of Chicago.
However, the quotes above are the words of the TG Daily correspondent Wolfgang Gruener, not of Ballmer. In fact, the famously energetic executive is only directly quoted via two jumbled fragments with a grand total of five words. TG Daily's story reads as follows, with Ballmer's quotes in bold:
"The new device will be equipped with technology that is 'really, really, close' to an actuality. The console, which was described as having a 'natural interface,' will have a built-in camera with the ability to recognize movement and voice."
As further evidence, TG Daily refers to its own live blog of Ballmer's presentation--which curiously doesn't mention the Xbox 360 at all. Despite noting such critical events as a lunch break, the two bloggers (who are not credited in the byline) make absolutely zero mention of games or the word "Xbox." The closest the live blog comes to describing anything Natal-like is the following line: "Computers have cameras built in, you can interact with friends, the computer recognizes what you are doing."
Indeed, nowhere in either article are the words "Project Natal" mentioned, raising the possibility that Gruener confused the release of the peripheral--expected next year--with the launch of a new Xbox. What appears to be the sole article on TG Daily to mention Natal by name was written by a different correspondent, who cites a secondary source speaking about a widely discounted rumor of a new Xbox 360 with integrated Natal functions arriving next year.
The official story: When asked about Ballmer's response, Microsoft reps said they did not currently have immediate access to a transcript or recording of the executive's speech. They did, however, offer the following somewhat opaque comment:
"As the Xbox team stated at E3 two weeks ago, we are not even halfway through the current console generation life cycle and believe Xbox 360 will be the entertainment center in the home for long into the next decade. Project Natal will be an important part of this platform, but we have not confirmed a launch date at this time."
Bogus or not bogus?: Draw. TG Daily's lack of specifics or direct quotes raises some Soviet-era-sized red flags. But if Microsoft has nothing to hide, why can't it deny the claim outright?
[UPDATE] The director of Xbox 360 product management and Xbox Live Aaron Greenberg has since dismissed the TG Daily story, telling the gaming blog Kotaku flatly that, "We're not going to be launching a new console any time soon...I really believe [Ballmer] was speaking about Project Natal."
Greenberg went on to underline Natal's status as an optional, standalone peripheral. "We are saying that the Natal will run on the Xbox 360, so there's no new hardware to purchase," he explained. "What we're doing that's unique is, instead of asking you to invest in a new generation of hardware, a generation that's already well established, extending the experience even longer by adding this whole new category of experiences with Project Natal."