Microsoft has been officially silent about plans for a successor to its Xbox 360 video-game console, but here’s a telltale sign that things are ramping up behind-the-scenes: The company is boosting security to an unprecedented level in the area of the Redmond campus that is home to the Xbox team, GeekWire has learned.

The company notified employees this week that it will be implementing new physical security measures — limiting employee access at four key Xbox and Interactive Entertainment Business buildings to ensure confidentiality of upcoming products.

It’s the first time Microsoft has taken this step on such a broad scale. The move represents a cultural shift, giving Microsoft’s key consumer products a level of security more along the lines of those implemented by Apple.

Microsoft hasn’t said when its next console is launching, and executives didn’t reference any specific product plans in their communications with employees this week. However, if the company were aiming for a fall 2013 launch of a new console, it would make sense for preliminary systems to start arriving soon for internal use and testing.

The changes will affect Microsoft Studios A, B, C, and D, on the west side of state Route 520, starting early next month with Studio A and rolling out to the other buildings by the end of the month.

Under the new policy, only employees and vendors in Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business or assigned to the buildings will have open access. Other employees and vendors who need to enter the buildings for business reasons will need to go through an online registration process or register at the buildings as visitors, escorted by another employee with access to the buildings. The changes don’t impact the Commons area in the middle of the Xbox campus.

The changes are part of a broader plan to improve Xbox security, including document management. Over the summer, apparent details of the next Xbox version were made public in what was described at the time as the “Mother Of All Microsoft Leaks.

Microsoft has historically had an open access policy across its Redmond campus, with employees able to visit any building, with rare exception.

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  • PuttingtheTSAintoMSFT

    When they built the “Studios” and the Commons it was a sign to everyone that those groups were somehow special. They got special new buildings that had a special new name and a special new dining area (the only one with food that didn’t suck) that is a huge PITA to get to from main campus.

    Which is to say, since those groups only seem to constantly lose money (no matter how cool XBox is) it fostered resentment among the “unwashed”. After all if you work in old, dingy uncool”buildings” and have to eat crappy Eurest food (or none at all) to make the money that pays for the cool kids’ “studio” that you can’t really use, wouldn’t you feel resentful?

    So putting these buildings into lock down like this and telling the rest of the company “you’re not good enough” “we don’t trust” you is a really smart way to help put aside those differences. Not.

    Of course, anyone with a brain will tell you that keeping some tester from Office out of Studio A isn’t going to fix your leak problem: your leak is in XBox.

    This is just TSA levels of stupid. Can’t wait for the full body scanners to appear at the commons for non-XBox employees.

    • WhatsMyAliasToday

      You have a couple valid business points there. It’s a shame you buried them under so much jealously and bitterness.

      • Guest

        Well, I did say it fostered resentment. :)

    • Guest

      Xbox has been a financial failure and more important a huge distraction. Imagine if the same time, money, and energy had gone into smartphones or tablets. MS might have owned the future instead of watching others do so.

      • Truthhz

        This is complete nonsense. Blaming Xbox division for tablet and smartphone failures? MS had head start in both tablet and smartphone market over Apple and Google. MS failed to improve these products and reach broad consumer market. Something that the Xbox and Kinect has done very well.
        Xbox is the only MS product that has Apple like devotion among consumers. It’s no coincidence that Windows 8 PC & Tablets are leveraging Xbox branding for music, video and games services.
        Owning a share of the family room and the household TV is priceless and worth the billions in losses…unlike say the aQuantive purchase.

  • Guest

    We feel that the levels of Microsoft leaks warrant this kind of security. The “Xbox 360 2” et al must be shielded from the press for its launch next June to be as impactful as possible. No one, whether he be an SDET in Office or a PM in SME, shall be entitled to access these projects unless there’s a clear need for him/her to know something about them.

  • Mike_Acker

    a Sea Change ??…… MSFT to be a game supplier ?? after all Win8 is basically an “App” processor — just a tablet size idiot phone

  • guest

    It’s sad they have to take this measure but past leaks suggest they do.

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