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Reports: Natal dubbed 'Kinect;' new Xbox 360 on deck

Two 11th-hour leaks point to news that may be central to Microsoft's E3 Xbox product announcements.

USA Today Kinect story
USA Today/screenshot by John P. Falcone

Microsoft's E3 press conference isn't scheduled to start until Monday morning in Los Angeles, but it appears that at least two of the bigger secrets may be out of the bag. Separate leaks indicate the final name for the Project Natal motion controller (along with a slate of games) and the possibility of a revised Xbox 360 console with a newly designed enclosure.

Project Natal redubbed Kinect: First demonstrated at 2009's E3 show, Microsoft's camera-based Project Natal motion controller will be officially dubbed "Kinect," according to an article in USA Today. It was long understood that the Natal name was simply the camera-based motion controller's working title, so this alleged new moniker wouldn't be a surprise.

In addition to listing several alleged Kinect-related launch titles, the article makes reference to a Cirque du Soleil launch party scheduled for Sunday evening in Los Angeles in the past tense--even though the event hadn't yet started when it was published. That means that the information was likely provided to the paper under embargo, and the article was either published early, or was an exclusive.

Xbox 360 "Slim": Italian adverts for an updated Xbox 360 console have shown up on gaming blog Kotaku. In addition to an ventilated black enclosure, the supposed new Xbox 360 will also sport a more spacious 250GB hard disk and integrated Wi-Fi. (The current Xbox is available in 120GB and 250GB capacities, but it's the only current game console without built-in Wi-Fi, requiring instead a pricey add-on.)

If I had to handicap both rumors, I'd put the Kinect nomenclature--and the entire USA Today article--in the "all but certain" column, with the 360 Slim rumors closer to 60/40. (Rumors of a purported smaller Xbox 360 have swirled for years, most recently in March.)

We won't have a long wait to find out the truth: Microsoft's press conference will play out in less than 18 hours. In the meantime, what do you think about these rumors? Share your thoughts below.