Rumor Control: Halo 2, Xbox BF1942, and the FBI

What do the Master Chief, World War II, and Chris Toshok have in common?

There was no shortage of tall tales on the Web this week. In fact, today's roundup of unverifiable stories climbs in number from last week's three to five. Read it, and see if you can find the kernel of truth buried in the chatter. We did.

RUMOR #1: The FBI has made several raids in San Francisco looking for the Half-Life 2 hackers.

Source: Seminal tech-info wellspring Slashdot.

The official story: "This is an ongoing investigation. As such, I am unable to comment." -- Valve's ever-patient Doug Lombardi. "No comment." -- FBI agents Marie Gilliam and Catherine Warma.

What we heard: According to a blog entry by Chris Toshok, a member of the Hungry Programmers open-source collective, a group of FBI and Secret Service agents served him a search warrant at 6:30am last Wednesday morning. Toshok recounts the raid in vivid detail, including one agent's attempts at intimidation and another's gallows humor ("You'll definitely have one unique experience more than most people," the agent reportedly told him.) He also posted official-looking scans of a warrant he was served with (see above graphic), as well as an evidence receipt for the staggering amount of computer hardware the feds confiscated. However, Toshok did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.

Bogus or not bogus?: According to the BBC, it's legit. Then again, they spell color with a "u."

RUMOR #2: Electronic Arts and Microsoft are planning an Xbox Live version of Battlefield 1942.

Source: Throw a dead cat and you'll hit one. A live one works too.

The official story: "We continue to talk. Hopefully, the chatter on the boards continues to indicate a strong demand for EA Product on Xbox Live, which only works to continue conversations" -- EA vice president of marketing Chip Lange

What we heard: Originally, BF1942 was supposed to come out on the Xbox, but about this time last year, EA told GameSpot that it was canceling the title. However, given the subsequent success of both Microsoft's Xbox Live (750,000 subscribers at last count) and the enduring popularity of EA's online shooter, it looks like the two companies are considering rekindling their online romance. Given their flirtatious compliments to one another, you'd think they were already having hot make-up sex. "Microsoft is a great partner, and we've got roughly 20 titles in development for the Xbox," EA corporate communication veep Jeff Brown cooed to GameSpot. "EA is a great publishing partner," gushed Molly O'Donnell, senior manager of Xbox PR.

Bogus or not bogus?: The two involved parties obviously want to do the deed, so kiss and make up already! Those Nazis won't shoot themselves! Eventually not bogus.

RUMOR #3: Microsoft is readying Age of Empires III, Zoo Tycoon 2, and Combat Flight Simulator 4 for Q3 2004 releases.

Source: A post on some crazy Czech Web site sent to the news desk.

The official story: "There's nothing in the hopper right now," according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

What we heard: Off the record, several sources related to the three games' development said that it's not a question of if they are coming out but when. Given the game market's appetite for tycoon titles, flight sims, and bloody conquest--not to mention Microsoft's penchant for making money--a holiday release would be perfect timing.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.

RUMOR #4: Blizzard founder Allen Adham quit the studio he started out of frustration with its owner, VU Games.

Source: Similarly irked but significantly more chatty Blizzard staffers.

The official story: According to an internal e-mail he sent, Adham exited Blizzard to pursue a career in the "finance sector."

What we heard: While company spokespepople denied any connection between Adham's departure and VU's management techniques, several Blizzard employees told GameSpot a different story. "Allen was finally sick enough of the French to leave," said one source. Other employees saw the move as a sign of rough seas ahead for the highly regarded developer. "I think this represents a huge loss to Blizzard," lamented one staffer. "Adham is one of the best designer minds I have ever met."

Bogus or not bogus?: All that anger has to come from somewhere. Not bogus.

RUMOR #5: Halo 2 is being delayed until summer 2004.

Source: EBGames and GameStop have changed their release dates to June 1.

The official story: "We're going to ship it when it's ready." -- Xbox Xecutive Robbie Bach

What we heard: The Bungie folks stopped responding to e-mails long ago, and Microsoft isn't too keen on revealing the day the Master Chief will touch down. Reliable sources tell GameSpot that the Halo 2 news blackout is so real that Microsoft PR staff have long been under strict orders to stay clear of Bungie's work area. And while online stores sometimes post ballpark figures for release dates, they will often quietly blow the lid off of the information that tight-lipped developers have worked overtime to conceal.

Bogus or not bogus?: Unfortunately, not bogus.

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