What we heard: In console generations past, five years has been the approximate time frame companies have kept to for releasing their new hardware. However, this generation has been anything but ordinary, and it appears as if Microsoft is only just now getting serious about a successor to its current-generation system.
Over the weekend, ZDNet (which, like GameSpot, is owned by CBS Interactive) uncovered an image within Peterson's design portfolio that indicates Microsoft is targeting a new Xbox-related hardware launch for 2015.
The image in question is titled "Microsoft Xbox," and it bears the following description: "Confidential / Collaboration with Microsoft’s [Interactive Entertainment Business] Design group investigating future user experiences and hardware for 2015. *Work samples only permissible in person.* (March 2011)."
The image itself appears to be a zoomed-in look at a piece of concept art for the aforementioned "future user experiences and hardware." It resembles a number of other teaser images on Peterson's website, one of which is for Pranav Mistry's gestural recognition technology Sixth Sense.
According to Peterson, he worked on "A foreign travel companion device in collaboration with Pranav Mistry's SixthSense gestural recognition technology" in March 2010. However, this listing was apparently news to Mistry, who told GameSpot that he did not know Peterson and "he did not work on Sixth Sense."
Operating under the assumption that Peterson's portfolio is valid, it remains to be seen whether his alleged design work is for an all-new Xbox console or a new peripheral in the same vein as the Xbox 360's lifespan-extending motion-sensor add-on Kinect. However, considering the Xbox 360 will be 10 years old in 2015 and thatit only took Microsoft two years to take Kinect from its early design and prototype phase to global launch, the former seems more likely.
Microsoft has also indicated via job listings that it is staffing up for its next-generation console. Earlier this month, several job postings on LinkedIn indicated that Microsoft is forming a team "responsible for defining and delivering next generation console architectures from conception through implementation." One of these positions, Wireless DV Engineer, will play "a key role in the development and verification of the Xbox and future platforms."
The official story: Neither Microsoft nor Ben Peterson had responded to GameSpot's request for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus, for now. Mistry's flat-out denial that Peterson "collaborated" on his piece of technology raises eyebrows about what other misunderstandings or errors may be included on the site.
UPDATE: Ben Peterson, the industrial designer whose online portfolio started rumours of a an Xbox 360 successor, told Eurogamer the whole thing was a hoax. "I'm a student designer, it's not real," he told the publication.