Rumor Control: Half-Life 2, Xbox 2, PSP

[UPDATE] Pirated games, 65 nanometer processors, and RAM upgrades, oh my!

All sorts of tall tales were being told on the Web this week, but a few stood above the rest. Not because they were more absurd, but because they had a kernel of truth. In a new feature, GameSpot will round up unverifiable stories from the week and try to see whether they're closer to fact or fiction.

RUMOR #1: Playable, pirated, Russian-language copies of Half-Life 2 are on store shelves in Novosibirsk, Russia.

Source: Hardware rumor site The Inquirer.

The official story:"Illegal redistribution of the source code stolen last year," says Valve publicity generalissimo Doug Lombardi.

What we heard: Rumors about bootleg HL2 copies being on sale in the Ukraine and Belarus have been bouncing around for over a month. However, the Inquirer report is the first to talk of a "playable game." However, that account hasn't been corroborated. Most other sites talking about the pirated version simply link back to The Inquirer story. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so it means something is being sold as Half-Life 2....

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus, if you consider a hodgepodge of beta code slapped together "a playable game."

RUMOR #2: The Xbox 2 will come out in 2006 and incorporate a 65nm IBM chip that clocks in at nearly 5 Ghz.

Source: Console war partisans Team Xbox.

The official story: Yeah, right. "Sorry man, gotta toe the MS line here," said one friendly but recalcitrant PR rep. "This is a rumor and we don't comment on rumors. We're not saying anything specific about any next-gen products at this time." Quelle surprise.

What we heard: Most people have a better chance of holding a barbecue at Dick Cheney's undisclosed location than getting Microsoft to go on the record about its next console's inner workings. But Team Xbox's story is loaded with tantalizing details about the Xbox 2 (aka Xbox Next) processor. “It’ll be built on a 65-nanometer process,” the source told Team Xbox. "The 65-nanometer technology will allow them to break the 3 Ghz barrier for sure and get closer to the 5 Ghz mark." Sound farfetched? It shouldn't. Sony and Nintendo have both chosen 65nm IBM processors for their next-generation game consoles, and Big Blue is partnering with Toshiba and Sony to create the PS3's vaunted Cell Processor. The article also pegged the Xbox 2 as not coming out until 2006--right around the same time the Cell.

Bogus or not bogus?: Sounds perfectly plausible--and downright sexy. Not bogus (we hope).

RUMOR #3: Bowing to complaints from developers, Sony will increase the amount of RAM in the PSP from 8 MB to 32 MB.

Source: Ace British industry Web 'zine Gamesindustry.biz.

The official story: Sony still insists that "the PlayStation 2 is still in the middle of its life cycle" and won't comment on the PSP.

What we heard: When contacted by GameSpot, a handheld developer sidestepped the tech question, but did confirm he was currently working on "numerous" PSP titles. However, the GI story quotes a PSP programmer who says Sony has already approved the change. "The system was always nearly as powerful as the PS2, but the lack of RAM was a real worry … This will make developing games much faster and easier. Sony is really trying to make PSP development as painless as possible." GI also points out increasing the RAM will make PSP adaptations of PS2 games a whole lot easier. That would help the handheld build up an instant library--and get an edge on the Game Boy Advance SP.

Bogus or not bogus?: The lack of RAM has always been seen as the PSP's Achilles heel, so it would make total sense for Sony to remove the sole chink in its armor. Not bogus.

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