Rumor Control: Avalanche of defections at Blizzard?

Also this week: An à la carte $199 PSP and $60 Xbox 360 games shipping November 2.

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RUMOR #1: World of Warcraft developers are leaving Blizzard Entertainment in droves to work at NCsoft.

Source: Game-gossip site Grimwell.com.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: An ever-increasing number of sites--including QuartertoThree.com and MMhell.com--are citing the post on Grimwell, which flatly states that "NCSoft just stole a team of developers from Blizzard in Irvine, CA." According to the site, NCsoft has been wooing away Blizzard designers working on the first World of Warcraft expansion. To make jumping ship more attractive, the company has reportedly opened a new office in Irvine, so potential defectors won't have to relocate to NCsoft's US headquarters in Austin, Texas. As evidence of the defections, the conspiracy-minded point to the massive number of new job openings listed on Blizzard's own Web site--positions allegedly vacated by recently departed employees. But while Blizzard did not respond to GameSpot's requests for comment, NCsoft confirmed its digs in Blizzard's backyard. "NCsoft has opened an office in Orange County and we have a development team there working on an unannounced project," said a rep for the company. (The rep would give no further details on the new game, as it is "a long ways off.") However, a source close to NCsoft told GameSpot that the publisher had indeed lured a passel of Blizzard developers away "a long time ago." "It's not even new news, really," said the source, who declined to say how many designers had switched employers. However, seeing how internal NCsoft studio ArenaNet was founded by a group of former Blizzard-ians--the creators of Battle.net, no less--it would come as little surprise if more WOW developers had signed up with the rising publisher.

Bogus or not bogus?: Some Blizzard developers have joined NCsoft? Not bogus. But droves? That's not so certain.

RUMOR #2: Later this year, Sony will begin selling the PSP portable by itself for $199.

Source: Plucky underground game site Punchjump.com.

The official story: "We have made no announcements as to additional SKUs for PSP."--Sony Computer Entertainment America representative.

What we heard: Punchjump cites Best Buy and EB Games' stocking of official Sony-produced PSP accessories as proof that a bare-bones PSP is in the works. "Items like Sony headphones, cases, 32MB Memory Stick, and battery chargers are now all for sale as individual items," said the site, "They are exact to the ones (sic) currently included in the $249 PSP Value Pack." The logic is that Sony wouldn't go to the trouble of separately selling individual peripherals bundled with the current PSP. (Um, replacements maybe?) Sony would have two other valid reasons to release a $199 PSP: one, the cheaper price point would lure more frugal consumers, and two, it would let Sony sell peripherals and more expensive higher-capacity Memory Stick Duos for a combined total of more than the Value Pack's sticker price. But if Sony is planning to sell a bare-bones PSP, it's not in any hurry. "The current PSP Value Pack continues to fly off the shelves at retail," a rep said confidently.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for now.

RUMOR #3: Xbox 360 games will cost $60 and go on sale the first week in November.

Source: An in-store EB Games computer viewed by a Joystiq reader.

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Microsoft spokesperson.

What we heard: While it has long been rumored that next-gen console games will cost at least $60, this week came reports of hard evidence of the premium price point. Joystiq tipster Saurabh Agarwal reported that he "was just at my local EB Games store here in Pittsburgh, PA," said Agarwal. "The guy at the counter showed me this printout he just got with all the release titles, dates, and prices for the games for the XBOX360!!!...The majority of the games are slated for release on 11/02/2005... Games were priced at $59.99." Had this information been secret, it would have been quite the scoop. However, EBgames.com is openly listing all 360 launch titles--including Project Gotham Racing 3, Call of Duty 2, and Tony Hawk's American Wasteland--with the same price point and date. That said, EB Games' products each have the following disclaimer: "The ship date and retail price have not been confirmed and therefore are subject to change. If the retail price is decreased you will receive the lower price." So while the date and price are likely, nothing is official--yet.

Bogus or not bogus?: Hopefully bogus, but probably not bogus (sigh). Start saving those pennies!

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