Rumor Control: Doom 3 shipping August 3 and Resident Evil 4 delayed to '05

This week: The Great Gamertag Shortage, 2006's first Xbox game, and VU Games disbands Sierra and Blizzard.

RUMOR #1: Doom 3 has gone gold and will ship August 3.

Source: A scan (pictured) that surfaced in the GameSpot Forums and in a GameStop.com listing.

The official story: Activision reps would neither confirm nor deny the scan's authenticity, but one did say authoritatively that "Id Software has made no announcement that Doom 3 has gone gold." Twice.

What we heard: When the scan surfaced at the end of the week, gamers who've waited years for the shooter pounced on it like a pack of information-starved hyenas. It appears to be from a promotional one-sheet, like the kind sent to retailers before a game's release, outlining a massive six-month publicity campaign via every means of communication this side of semaphore flags. But the header is what got most gamers' attention. Playing on developer id Software's infamously vague release date, it proudly proclaims, "We said it would be out when it's done...it's done!" Despite the seeming irrefutability of this statement, a closer look at the one-sheet shows it's missing one crucial bit of information--the ship date. Nowhere on the sheet does a specific day, month, quarter, or year appear--other than the May 2003 quote from Wired. (Yes, we've been waiting that long.) Since these materials are often printed months in advance, it's likely Activision has them stockpiled, ready to be shipped out the minute the wizards of id finally hand over that precious gold master. However, the GameStop.com listing is a bit harder to dismiss, since it is linked to its home page and trumpets, "Official launch date of August 3rd, 2004 confirmed!" When presented with this bit of information, an Activision rep said, "I had not seen that," before repeating the aforementioned denial, albeit with a slightly less convincing tone.

Bogus or not bogus?: If you're half as sick hearing about this game as this reporter is writing about it, then I'm twice as sick as you. Possibly bogus.

RUMOR #2: VU is getting rid of its Blizzard and Sierra Entertainment Games sub-brands.

Source: An e-mail sent out to Sierra newsletter subscribers (also pictured).

The official story: "I need to validate if this even went out."--Befuddled VU staffer.

What we heard: Late Friday, an e-mail blast to Sierra newsletter subscribers cheerily mentioned the following: "As you may be aware, Sierra Entertainment is part of Vivendi Universal Games ("VU Games"), who are also responsible for titles from Blizzard Entertainment...We're bringing all of these brands together under the VU Games banner so that we can send you information that is timely and relevant to what you want to hear." Given VU's recent layoffs, panicky readers believed the e-mail to be an announcement that VU was planning to phase out two of the most respected names in gaming. Cooler heads believed the e-mail was merely about a consolidation of VU's various newsletters written in reflexively vague flack-speak. It turns out the latter is the case. According to several staffers contacted by GameSpot, the e-mail's vague wording was due to VU's privacy policy regarding newsletters. "That would be absolutely counter to what we have been doing. Blizzard Entertainment and Sierra are absolutely not going to be swept under the VU Games brand," said one anonymous staffer.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #3: The Xbox version of Citizen Zero won't come out until 2006.

Source: An interview with the game's lead designer on Xboxworld.com.au.

The official story: E-mails to developer Micro Forte's Australian headquarters and branch offices were not returned.

What we heard: In the interview, lead designer Paul McInnes discussed the ambitious, two-plus-years-in-development game in detail. Describing it as a "sci-fi Morrowind" and comparing it to Halo, the game will blend the massively multiplayer role-playing and first-person shooter genres. McInnes also talked up Citizen Zero's progressive clan structure and class system, as well as revealed some of the technical aspects of the game. But when it came to answer the question on many gamers' minds--"When is this sucker going to be ready?"--the designer said the following: "We are shooting for Xmas '05 for the PC version, with [the] Xbox [version] to follow shortly after." While the Q4 2005 release was previously announced, it was not known whether the Xbox version would be shipped simultaneously. And to make it by the end of 2005, it would have to be released very shortly after Christmas indeed.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.

RUMOR #4: Microsoft is asking Xbox Live subscribers to change their gamertags because it's running out of them.

Source: Numerous reports around the Web.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: GameSpot received reports this week that Xbox Live subscribers had been sent a message that read as follows: "It has come to our attention that there are many names on the Xbox Live service that are extremely similar to other gamertags (in most cases differentiated by only a single space). In order to avoid confusion, we want to give players the opportunity to change their gamertags so that their friends are not confused about the identity of who they are playing. This should be a quick and easy process for a very small percentage of Xbox Live users." As a reward, Microsoft reportedly offered subscribers who did change their gamertags a free copy of Project Gotham Racing 2. Later in the week, it increased the reward to also include an entire year of Xbox Live, also for free. Widespread suspicion that Microsoft would offer anything for free without an ulterior motive sparked the gamertag-shortage theory. After flat-out denying it, one Microsoft rep laughed it off, saying, "That's out of left field."

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #5: Resident Evil 4 and Killer 7 have been delayed until 2005.

Source: Product pages on EBGames.com and GameStop.com.

The official story: "We have not made any announcements regarding the exact release dates or months for these products. Both of these are still considered 'Winter.'"--Capcom USA spokesperson.

What we heard: The product pages went up. The forums started a-hoppin'. The e-mails went out. The official denial came in. The tired reporter shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and moved on...

Bogus or not bogus?: Who knows?

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