July 3, 2012 at 1:28 PM ET
Forget the Xbox 720 or Durango or any of the other names the rumor mill has given Microsoft's next game machine. Word on the street today is that the next Xbox will be called Xbox 8 -- or perhaps more likely: Xbox Infinity.
The Xbox rumor mill lit up Tuesday as word made the rounds that Microsoft received the rights to the domains Xbox8.org and Xbox8.us.
It all started when Fusible.com reported that the domains, held by a Chinese cybersquatter, had been turned over to Microsoft by the National Arbitration Forum, which handles international domain disputes. The organization ruled against the cybersquatter in two separate decisions (check them out here and here). In addition to the Xbox8 domains, it also handed over to Microsoft xboxcompanion.com, xboxlivetv.com, xboxphone.com, and xboxtablet.com.
(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal.)
While Microsoft has yet to confirm that a successor to the Xbox 360 is in the works (it is), Tuesday morning's rumor explosion says something about the high interest in this mystical machine.
The games press and the Twitterati spent Tuesday morning rabidly guessing what "Xbox 8" might mean.
Though I like to think that Microsoft is just preparing for the decades ahead when it finally gets around to making the 8th installment of the Xbox (should be around the year 2053 right?), others have more wisely pointed out that the number 8 could represent the infinity symbol -- hence Xbox Infinity (which does have a nice ring to it). Still others thought maybe it had something to do with the 8th anniversary of the Xbox 360 -- which is coming up next year.
Then again, probably the most likely scenario has to do with the forthcoming Windows 8 (not to mention Windows Phone 8) and how these products might be used in conjunction with the next Xbox.
Still, this is the second time in a matter of weeks that Xbox Next rumors have sent gamers into a guessing game fever. Two weeks ago secret documents were reportedly released outlining Microsoft's plans for a new Xbox (called the Xbox 720 in this case) -- one that is six to eight times more powerful than the Xbox 360 and supports virtual reality glasses.
For its part, Microsoft has remained mostly mum on the topic. A company spokesperson told game site Kotaku, "Microsoft often acquires various domain names as part of its ongoing business strategy, but beyond that we have no comment."
One thing is for certain, Microsoft must be enjoying all the free advance publicity for their next game machine ... which doesn't even, technically, exist.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.