Rumor Control: Annual Xbox 360 price cuts and Peter Jackson's Halo

This week: Konami buys Capcom, the stillborn Metallica game, and Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks roughs up the PSP.

RUMOR #1: Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has signed on to direct the Halo movie.

Source: The forums at Bollfans.com, a site dedicated to German film director Uwe Boll.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Late last week, audible gasps of horror were heard around the GameSpot offices when the Internet Movie Database began listing Boll as the director of the forthcoming big-budget film version of Halo. Boll has become notorious for his critically savaged movie versions of beloved games, which include House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and the dismal-looking BloodRayne, due next January. Mercifully, that rumor was dispelled by Bollfans.com, which bluntly states on its home page that "Uwe Boll will not direct Halo." (IMDb has since removed his name from the Halo movie page.)

But a far more tantalizing nugget lay in the Bollfans.com forums, where someone claming to be Bungie Studios audio director Marty O'Donnell posted the following message on Saturday, 9/17: "You'll be pleased to know that we have accepted a Director by the name of Peter Jackson in regards to the Halo Movie project....I.M.D.B. will be updated shortly to correcti (sic) I.M.D.B, and later this week we will release a statement over at our website (http://www.bungie.net) to help clarify this matter further." (Emphasis in the original.)

While no announcement has yet been made by Bungie or Microsoft, the thought of Jackson directing Halo would make many a geek's head explode. Besides his helming the Oscar-winning, $2.3 billion-grossing Lord of the Rings trilogy--which has just the sort of epic scope one hopes the Halo movie will have--Jackson is an avid gamer. After playing the cult hit Beyond Good & Evil, he hired its designer, Michel Ancel (Rayman), to oversee the game version of his forthcoming King Kong remake.

There are also plenty of business reasons why Jackson would direct Halo. Universal, which is cofinancing the movie with Fox, is also bankrolling and distributing King Kong. Jackson owns the Oscar-winning special effects company Weta Digital, which has extensive experience with creating fearsome creatures akin to Halo's Elites, Brutes, and Grunts. (Jackson's horror background could also come in handy for re-creating the flood.) The green valleys and lush terrain of New Zealand, where Jackson filmed Rings, would make a nice stand-in for Halo's surface landscape. Lastly, there's the matter of the country's favorable exchange rate, which made shooting Rings much less expensive than it would have been if it had been made in the States--and the same could be done for Halo.

But is the Jackson-Halo post a real leak or just a cruel hoax? At first, it looked like the former, since the poster took one of O'Donnell's nicknames, Marty the Elder, for an avatar. Also, according to his Bungie bio, O'Donnell hails from Vienna, Austria, which could explain what he was doing visiting a primarily German-language Web site. The problem is, all that information is posted on the Bungie site and can be seen by anyone. In this case, it was seen by someone with a sick sense of humor, because, according to a rep from Universal, the Peter Jackson rumor is "completely untrue."

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus, sadly.

RUMOR #2: Konami is buying Capcom.

Source: An article on the Bloomberg financial news service.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Late last week, excitable industry-watchers picked up on the Bloomberg article as heralding another union of two major Japanese game companies. Consolidation has been a trend during the last year, with Sammy buying Sega, Bandai merging with Namco, and Square Enix making a $600 million bid for Taito. The Bloomberg piece outlines a similar scenario, with Konami, which bought HudsonSoft in April, acquiring Capcom. "The company [Capcom] is in a difficult situation financially," said analyst Hiromu Takada, who speculated that the company is ripe for a takeover. Several other analysts weighed in with their opinions, with one saying that cash-flush Konami is in "attack mode." But opinions, albeit informed ones, are all the Bloomberg article contains. It's completely speculative, outlining possible scenarios, not any done deals. That said, neither company would confirm--or deny--that merger talks were happening, though Capcom gave GameSpot a statement that left the impression it was not for sale. "Capcom has not been involved in any merger or acquisition in its 20-year history," said a rep for the company. "Talk of a merger with Konami is based on an analyst comment that Capcom would be a likely candidate for acquisition or merger. Capcom treats this as a rumor, and we make it a policy to not comment on rumors."

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus...for now.

RUMOR #3: Microsoft has announced it will reduce the price of the Xbox 360 each year, starting in 2006.

Source: UK game-industry business Web site Gamesindustry.biz.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Xbox acolytes got all hot and bothered Monday morning, when Gamesindustry.biz ran an article with the headline "Microsoft pledges annual price cuts for 360." The site sourced a Reuters article in which Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of the Xbox product group, told Reuters, "We will wind up cost-reducing the product every year." By themselves, Holmdahl's comments do seem to augur a progressively cheaper next-gen console. However, the original Reuters article focuses on how Microsoft lost $4 billion on the first Xbox, and the sentence right before Holmdahl's comments refer to Microsoft's "improved ability to keep costs in check." In that context, is seems like Holmdahl is talking about Microsoft's own costs, versus the cost to consumers--something Microsoft confirmed to GameSpot later that day. "He was referring to the manufacturing process," said a rep for the company, "not the retail price of the console."

Still, that doesn't mean annual Xbox 360 price cuts won't happen. After all, the original Xbox has gone down in price almost every year since it went on sale in 2001 for $299. In 2002, it dropped to $199, then to $179 in 2003, and to $149 in 2004. The PlayStation 2's price has followed a similar trajectory, going from $299 in 2000, to $199 in 2002, then to $179 in 2003, and to $149 in 2004 with the introduction of the new slimline model. So while Holmdahl wasn't pledging annual price cuts, history shows they are likely and may come as soon as next spring--to help blunt the launch of the PlayStation 3.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Holmdahl said it; probably not bogus that it will happen.

RUMOR #4: Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks is coming to the PSP.

Source: A discussion thread in the forums of Mortalkombatonline.com.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Although there's already one Mortal Kombat game confirmed for the PSP--Mortal Kombat: Deception Unchained, due next February--word began to percolate last week that a handheld version of Shaolin Monks is in the works. The rumor trail led back to a post on Mortalkombatonline.com, an independent MK fan site with strong ties to Midway Games. These ties are so strong, apparently, that one of Shaolin Monks' producers, Shaun Himmerick, has been using the forums for his own developer diary. In the sixth entry, he mentions that "we are doing analysis of possibly doing MKSM for PSP.... And I say an ANALYSIS, not a commitment to do it." (Emphasis in the original.) But despite Himmerick's caveat, word began to spread that MKSM for the PSP was a done deal, prompting a quick and emphatic response from a Midway spokesperson. "That's a rumor at best," said the rep. "I can confirm that Deception is in the works on PSP and should ship by the end of this year. Shaolin PSP is nonexistent right now but could definitely kick off in development soon after the platforms ship."

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for the time being.

RUMOR #5: A Metallica game was being secretly developed by VU games until its recent cancellation.

Source: The online version of the German magazine PC Games.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Our inner James Hetfield started throwing up the devil's horns in 2003 when we heard that Metallica had signed a deal with VU Games to create a "combat action video game." Unfortunately, the enthusiasm turned to a Some Kind of Monster-worthy tantrum over the weekend, when we learned, via PC Games, that the game had been canceled before it was ever formally announced. To confirm the news, we e-mailed our normally friendly contact, who quickly bumped us up to the VU Games corporate spokesperson. That rep politely redirected our inquires to Offner & Anderson, a self-described "boutique law firm" that is "one of the most reputable intellectual property firms in Los Angeles." Calls and e-mails to Offner & Anderson went unanswered...

Bogus or not bogus?: If the Metallica game is stuck in legal limbo, it's basically as good as canceled.

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Discussion

6 comments
Adam_the_Nerd
Adam_the_Nerd

Man, Jackson for Halo would have been amazing. ANd a X360 price cut is always good.

Darwin917
Darwin917

cut of the 360 would be good or else i aint gonna buy it. if any info is out please tell me, and if u have a WII notfy me please. i need info

Achilles438
Achilles438

I hope that shaolin monks does come to the psp, I would love to play that game on the go. I only wish sony would cut the price of the ps3.

FlashNovice
FlashNovice

tbrown432 is right... CUT THE PRICE OF THE 360!

shadow1854
shadow1854

metallica game? what the? that would be weird.. well it would be cooler then a stupid 50 cent game though..

tbrown432
tbrown432

They better cut the price of the 360!