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13 greatest Xbox mysteries of 2013

Lionhead MMOs, "the next Halo", Xbox TV and more

With next generation consoles heavily predicted to launch next year, the world is awash with mystery right now. Recently, for instance, I happened upon an intriguing combination of two elements - one, an empty bottle of lager on my desk, and two, the striking absence of Matt. Whatever could this bode?

Also recently, I had a think about all the rumours and speculation we've published of late, and decided to hustle them all together into a full-blown feature. Read on, if you dare, for a definitively ambiguous rundown of 2013's greatest enigmas.

1. What is Black Tusk Studios making?
Black Tusk Studios began life as Microsoft Vancouver, a "world-class development team" that's "dedicated to making games for 'core' gamers" which we've been keeping an eye on since May. At the time, Microsoft Vancouver was "looking for a talented and experienced Lead Online & Multiplayer Engineer to deliver a best in class networked gameplay experience and online services for an AAA game title". In particular, experience with online third-person and/or first-person shooters was pronounced "highly desirable".

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Post rebrand, the studio has revealed that it's crafting Microsoft's next big entertainment franchise, a series that will rival Halo for scale. Rumour has it that the game is "some big new IP space shooter thing", and that Crysis 2 lead designer Sten Huebler is on the job. Between this, Halo itself and Bungie's Destiny, said to be a timed Xbox 720 exclusive, there appears to be a glut of science fiction extravaganzas next gen.

2. What is "Xbox TV"?
There are two schools of thought on the subject, which is increasingly broached by Microsoft job listings. The cautious outlook suggested by those listings is that Microsoft is expanding its non-interactive entertainment remit to include a full-blown TV channel, built on top of Xbox Live with the aid of experienced TV producers and offering "a whole new category of cutting edge experiences". Halo 4's preliminary Forward Unto Dawn spin-off film series could be indicative here, as could the game's CGI-driven episodic Spartan Ops component.

On the other hand, you've got a Verge report which claims that Microsoft is developing a literal Xbox TV - a high-definition set sporting built-in gaming hardware for "casual gaming", to be revealed in late 2013. The device in question would be an always-on affair, and would run on the same nuts and bolts as the next generation Xbox. Given the impending arrival of Smart TV offerings from the likes of Apple, it makes sense that Microsoft would want to reinforce its living room domination somehow, and the firm has yet to publicly deny the story.

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3. Which games will go cross-gen?
A hefty proportion of the Xbox 720's early line-up are likely doing the rounds right under our noses, in the guise of max-specced PC builds of current generation titles. In particular, LucasArts' Star Wars 1313, Codemasters' GRID 2 and Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs have been decreed suspiciously pretty. Meanwhile, Battlefield 4 and Dragon Age 3's rough release dates place them slightly ahead of when next generation consoles are rumoured to show, suggesting that they'll see release on both Xbox 360 and its successor.

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