Rumor Control: Lionhead buyouts and Paris Hilton's PlayStation 2

This week: CSI Xbox and Final Fantasy: Advent Children--exclusively on UMD.

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RUMOR #1: Either Activision or Microsoft will soon buy Lionhead Studios.

Source: UK game-trade mag MCV.

The official story: Activision reps did not return e-mails; "Microsoft does not comment on rumor and speculation."--Microsoft spokesperson.

What we heard: Though it offers no proof other than its own staff's hunch, the MCV article asserts that Lionhead, the studio founded by "development guru" Peter Molyneux in 1997, will soon be bought. The two suitors mentioned are each publishing an eagerly awaited Lionhead title. Later this year, Activision will release The Movies, a combination Hollywood studio sim and DIY machinima kit, on all consoles, with a PC version due next year. In the fall, Microsoft will release Fable, the long-awaited, life-spanning role-playing game from internal Lionhead Studio Big Blue Box. But while Lionhead would nicely complement Activision's other internal studios (Raven Software, Neversoft, and Infinity Ward among them), Microsoft is the more likely buyer. If Fable meets expectations, it could establish a franchise almost worth the price of the company, and cash-flush Microsoft is eagerly seeking top-notch exclusives for both the Xbox and its next-gen console. However, that same rationale was given in May for Microsoft's rumored buyout of Jade Empire developers BioWare--which never happened.

Bogus or not bogus?: Too early to tell.

RUMOR #2: Sony is establishing an exclusive Hamptons resort called the "PlayStation 2 Estate."

Source: This press release from Sony.

The official story: Sony wouldn't issue any comment other than the press release.

What we heard: Think "Paris Hilton" and "PlayStation 2" have nothing in common? Think again. In the latest example of using celebrities to market games, Sony is opening the aforementioned 12,500-square-foot mansion on a six-acre lot in the über-rich resort town of Bridgehampton, NY. Glitterati like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z, and Paris Hilton will host exclusive parties this coming weekend during which guests can indulge in "spa treatments, badminton, horseback riding, canoeing, bocce ball, croquet, ping-pong, and the latest in PlayStation 2 gaming." As appealing as sipping Cristal in a hot tub surrounded by starlets whacking shuttlecocks may sound, it's a bit of a head-scratcher what any of that has to do with video games. Still, that isn't stopping Sony from shelling out big bucks to associate the PlayStation 2 brand with the unveiling of Jay-Z's latest S Carter shoe, Combs' annual White party (not to be confused with the upscale gay dance festival), and the launch of Hilton's record label, Heiress records. And you thought the Pandora Tomorrow premiere at Sundance was bad....

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Good luck getting in, though.

RUMOR #3: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children will be exclusively released on Universal Media Disc (UMD), the new format used by the PSP.

Source: Another week, another SPOnG item.

The official story: "I cannot confirm those rumors."--Square Enix rep.

What we heard: When Sony unveiled the PSP at E3, it talked about which movies would be available on UMD--but only named one non-Sony film. That was Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the computer-generated movie sequel to the PlayStation game Final Fantasy VII. There were reports last fall that Sony was trying to purchase the game to be a UMD-exclusive, and all the SPOnG story does is rehash those rumors under the headline "PSP gets first dibs on new Final Fantasy movie?" However, according to sources inside Square Enix, the film is set to be released on DVD as well. "Given the fact that the PSP release is 'winter' and the fact that this product was initially created as a DVD product, I would be surprised if it came out exclusively on the PSP," one staffer told GameSpot.

Bogus or not bogus?: Probably bogus.

RUMOR #4: Ubisoft is readying a CSI game for the Xbox.

Source: A product listing on EB Games.

The official story: Ubisoft had not responded to comment solicitations as of press time.

What we heard: Though only tepidly received by the games press, the two PC CSI games--CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation--proved as solid sellers as the games based on Law & Order. That has prompted the development of a third, CSI: Miami, which will ship this coming November. That's the same month as the listed release of the EB product, merely titled "CSI XB." But although product pages on EB have revealed the existence of many titles--most recently the PC version of Escape from Butcher Bay--it has also led to several false reports, such as the cancellation of Half-Life 2 for the Xbox.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. There's enough milk left in the CSI cash cow to warrant an Xbox port, though maybe not a PlayStation 2 one.

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