Source: British game-news outlet GamesIndustry.biz.
What we heard: As the 2009 Game Developers Conference heated up last week, so too did the game-industry rumor mill. The spark was a report on GamesIndustry.biz bearing the seemingly unequivocal headline "Blizzard in talks with Microsoft for next Xbox."
The title alone stirred up a frenzy, given that Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft is the biggest massively multiplayer online game on the planet. Its nearly 12 million subscribers help Blizzard--one half of Activision Blizzzard--generate over $100 million in revenues each month. Were any console-maker to successfully woo the notoriously PC-focused developer-publisher, the resulting royalties and sales would give it a major leg up in the tooth-and-nail console wars.
Unfortunately, the body of GI.biz's story was much less sturdy than its head implied. "Speaking at the Luminaries Lunch today during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Pardo would only state that Blizzard is actively in discussions with Microsoft, seemingly confirming the development process of new console hardware is under way." (Emphasis added.) The Luminaries Lunch was a small event reportedly organized by Acclaim chief creative officer and industry insider David Perry.
The official story: When contacted by GameSpot, Blizzard reps shot down the GI.biz story outright, saying the outlet had not even followed up with any inquiries attempting to clarify Pardo's remarks.
"In the Lunch with Luminaries discussion, Rob said that Microsoft occasionally bounces ideas off of us, with no specific reference to any possible future consoles," said the rep. "This should come as no surprise, as our games run on Microsoft's PC operating system. We aren't in discussions with Microsoft regarding any future consoles." (Emphasis added.)
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus. That said, though, Blizzard has publicly stated that a console MMORPG is theoretically viable. Several real-time strategy games--Blizzard's other specialty--have already been on consoles, but the profitablity of the genre outside the PC realm remains unproven.
If the console market continues to expand at its current rate--and is not disrupted by an OnLive-type service--the publisher would be foolish not to expand into it. For the moment, though, any such move appears to be a ways off--officially, anyway.