What we heard: With X10 less than 24 hours away, excitement is building about what announcements might come out of Microsoft's press event in San Francisco. Given what looks like a major leak, gamblers should place their bets on a $400 bundle with both Final Fantasy XIII and a 250GB hard drive-equipped Xbox 360 being on the day's agenda.
A listing for just such a bundle was spotted by NeoGAF on ExpertZone, which is used to preview and display wares to Microsoft's retail partners. Before it was summarily pulled down, NeoGAF user jmoe316 quickly screen-grabbed the retailer listing, which shows a FFXIII-themed box with heroine Lightning on the cover next to a white Xbox 360 console. Also shown are the FFXIII game, two white controllers, and a white console.
Visually, the $399.99 "Special Edition" bundle's contents seem straightforward--and completely plausible, given the great fanfare with which Microsoft announced that the formerly PlayStation 3-exclusive role-playing game was coming to the 360. The product description also bears classic Microsoft marketing-speak, touting the expanded storage of the drive and how FFXIII "takes full advantage of the Xbox 360 system's advanced hardware, providing intuitive controllers while delivering seamless transitions between real-time gameplay and stunning cinematics."
Unfortunately, it's somewhat stunning that just a few inches away, the "What's included" breakdown of the box content describes the console and the controllers as "black." The less-than-seamless discrepancy makes it unclear if Microsoft's graphics department forgot to change the fine print when they recycled a mock-up from November's black Modern Warfare 2 bundle or if the ad is a top-notch fake. Also unnerving is the crude Photoshopping of the controllers and console, which also points to either a forgery or a mock-up. Finally, one of the Final Fantasy boxes bears the "Only on Xbox 360" logo reserved for console exclusives.
The official story: "We have nothing to announce at this time."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. The ad's origin, language, and presentation all appear genuine, and it's easy to believe an underpaid, unobservant graphic designer on a tight deadline simply made a mistake. (Such things have happened before.) And given the building excitement of long-suffering Final Fantasy XIII fans for the game's looming March 9 launch, what better way to entice non-Xbox 360 owners into the fold than with a shiny new bundle?
[UPDATE] The bundle has been officially confirmed by Xbox Live director of programming Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb. Surprise?