One of the biggest news stories during this past Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles didn't even happen at the convention. In an article with Time Magazine (which not-so-coincidentally came out just before the major press conferences), Microsoft top dog Bill Gates lobbed a plasma grenade right in the crotch of rival Sony with this announcement: "The day Sony launches [the PlayStation 3]… they walk right into Halo 3."
At least one retailer is taking Gates' words to the bank. GameStop has now begun to take preorders for Halo 3 on its Web site. The product page shows no box art or game information, but its June 1, 2006, estimated release date, $59.99 price tag, and Xbox 360 platform has fans of the sci-fi series dual-wielding joy and anticipation.
However, it isn't time to start checking prices on high-def TVs just yet. It's become common practice for online retailers to begin taking preorders based on mere speculation. To quote the site:
"NOTE: Content based on the best available information. Price, release date, content and title are subject to change and/or cancellation by vendor."
Gates' announcement may have shocked many, but not all. Thinking more like cutthroat business moguls rather than game developers tweaking ones and zeros, several conspiracy theorists and Web sites figured that Halo 3 launching simultaneously with the PlayStation 3 would make the most business sense for Microsoft. And it wouldn't be shocking--the company has made a similar move before.
Microsoft Game Studios delayed Halo 2 for a year to November 2004, which also happened to coincide with Sony's launch of its new slim-line PlayStation 2. The result? Halo 2 sold like gangbusters, Xbox Live subscriptions doubled, and Xbox consoles flew off the shelf. Thanks to the popular shooter, Microsoft finally toppled the Japanese company as the monthly leader in the gaming industry, a feat that the Microsoft brass hasn't been curt about.
Even with Gates' declaration, no official announcement of Halo 3 has been made. When speaking with GameSpot just before Microsoft's press conference at E3, Microsoft corporate vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing, Peter Moore, remained mum on the subject, and Halo developer Bungie has denied that a third chapter of the Spartan shooter is in the works.
However, it doesn't mean the Washington-based developer isn't telling a little corporate white lie. Bungie has stated that it won't be working on new downloadable maps for Halo 2 after the release of July's Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack, as it is working hard on an "unnamed project," which, with Gates' boasting, seems more and more likely to be Halo 3.
For gamers who would rather stare at bouncing bazookas rather than fire 'em at enemies, GameStop posted a listing for another sequel set for the Xbox 360. According to the site, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2, starring the teenie-weenie bikini-clad beauties from the Dead or Alive series of fighting games, is in the works from Tecmo and Ninja Gaiden developer Team Ninja. The original was released January 2003 on the Xbox and it quickly became a cult game because of its, ahem, realistic physics.
A quick search through the Xbox 360 product listing also reveals a few other next-gen titles that were previously unknown (though each is tagged with the aforementioned disclaimer).
Swedish developer Team Tarsier has its paws all over Metronome, previously announced for the PC. The adventure game uses a bizarre art style (think a more colorful Edward Gorey or Tim Burton) to create the city of Metronome. According to the company's Web site, gamers will record sounds (or make their own) to progress through the game by using the audio to battle enemies, solve puzzles, or alter the moods of non-player characters. There is no release date information available on the game.
Theseis is an adventure game from Greek developer Track7 Games. A visit to the company's Web site reveals that a PC version is also in the works, and the game is scheduled for release in 2006. Apparently, gamers will play as Andronicos Kalogerou, a modern-day engineer in Athens. The tradesman stumbles upon a mysterious contraption and goes "where the dividing line between myth and reality becomes a mysterious blur." Judging from the game's screenshots, it appears as though Andronicos will travel back in time (that, or to an elaborate costume party).
The last game is shrouded in the most secrecy. Puzzlingly titled [eM] eNCHANT arM, the role-playing game sounds more like an Xbox Live gamertag than a 360 title. No information is available for the game aside from the fact that it is being developed by From Software, who is also developing the Xbox 360 mech-game Chrome Hounds for Sega. GameStop does list From Software as the game's publisher, which is unusual because From Software does not publish games in the United States.
None of the games have officially been announced, and Microsoft declined to comment on the matter. GameSpot will have more on all the titles as soon as information becomes available.