Unfortunately, the most earth-shattering news of the week--the Half-Life 2 and Halo 2 delay announcements--turned out to be more than idle rumors. They were true. However, a few other interesting stories bubbled up through the primordial sludge of game gossip.
RUMOR #1: EB Games is already accepting pre-orders for a $299.99 PSP and Nintendo $199.99 Nintendo DS.
Source: Our very own GameSpot forums.
The official story: "We are not taking PSP orders at this time."--Debbie Mola, EB Games' vice president of merchandising. "Uh, not yet."--several baffled EB sales reps.
What we heard: Forum-trolling is an essential part of any self-respecting muckraker--I mean, reporter. While many threads are packed with idle gossip, vicious flaming, and goofy .jpg signatures (personal favorite: a kitten with a sniper rifle), many others are the place where keen-eyed gamers first bring breaking news to the public. So when news of price-pointed PSP and DS pre-orders popped up, it sounded perfectly feasible...until we talked to numerous staffers at EB Games' physical and online stores, where befuddlement was the watchword. However, over the weekend, an informed source contacted GameSpot and said that there is already a $299 PSP SKU in the EB Games retail-store database, as well as an unpriced SKU for the DS, which he expected to be in the $200 range. Another source said it was perfectly possible individual stores were taking pre-orders, but officially, EB Games is not.
Bogus or not bogus?: Official pre-orders already? Bogus. A $299 PSP? Probably not bogus.
RUMOR #2: Atari is readying a sequel to Enter the Matrix.
Source: Monday's Atari stock-analyst conference call.
The official story: "We will reveal more about this unique property we have been associated with at this year's E3."--Atari Chairman and CEO Bruno Bonnell
What we heard: When it was announced, Enter the Matrix seemed like a brilliant extension of the high-tech film franchise into the next frontier of entertainment, games. It was one of last summer's top games, and, despite taking a Burly Brawl-level beating from critics, the PlayStation 2 version would become the ninth best-selling title of 2003. Industry-watchers assumed it would only be a matter of time until a sequel was announced. Then came The Matrix Revolutions, the movie that singlehandedly convinced the most hardcore Neo-phytes to jack out of all things Zion. Given that Ubisoft was rumored to be mulling shutting down its Matrix Online MMORPG (which is still due in October 2004), an all-new Matrix game seemed unlikely. However, when directly probed about an Enter the Matrix sequel during Monday's conference call, Bonnell issued the cagey comment above. GameSpot couldn't get a further comment on the matter, but it looks like Atari sees more milk in this cash cow.
RUMOR #3: Many of ATI's production partners have stopped shipping free Half-Life 2 coupons with Radeon 9600 XT and 9800 XT chipsets.
Source: Hardcore hardware-info site Tweakfactor.com.
The official story: "We were told of boxes shipping without the coupon, looked into it, found out that it was the case in very few instances."--ATI spokesperson Patti Mikula.
What we heard: According to the article, several manufacturers of ATI-powered chipsets quietly stopped including Half-Life 2 coupons with their cards after December 31, 2003. The withdrawal reportedly came with little or no fanfare, with mention of the Half-Life 2 coupon disappearing from GPUs' online product listings and/or physical packaging. After a week of e-mails and phone calls, ATI finally addressed the charges by both flatly denying them ("Coupons still included in all ATI/Radeon-branded 9800 XT, 9600 AT, All-In-Wonder 9600 XT, and All-In-Wonder 9600 PRO products") and then cautiously side-stepping them ("In December, we made it optional for our partners to include the HL2 coupon"). But several manufacturers, including GeCube, openly admit they are shipping graphics cards without Half-Life 2 coupons. As always, caveat emptor.
Bogus or not bogus?: Nothing about Half-Life 2 should seem surprising anymore. Not bogus.
RUMOR #4: Several shareware developers have received cease-and-desist letters from someone claiming to have patented computer solitaire.
Source: The Ur-geeks and all-around smashing fellows at Slashdot.
The official story: The full letter can be seen on LawGeek.
What we heard: While anything that decreases the use of computer solitaire, one of most pervasive time-wasters in history, is certainly laudable, claiming you have patented a card game is downright insane. However, developer Thomas Warfield received a notice from a lawyer saying his Pretty Good Solitaire infringes on patents held by one Sheldon Goldberg. According to Warfield's blog, the letter said his use of "a card game, such as solitaire, in which an ordered collection of card representations is generated where each card representation is eligible for play in a game of solitaire" violates Goldberg's patent. In fact, Goldberg holds three 1996 patents on multi-player card game applications. But, Mr. Warfield points out, solitaire is played by a single person and has been around since at least the 1700s. Apparently several other solitaire makers have received similar letters.
Bogus or not bogus?: The letters sure seem real enough. As for the suit...
RUMOR #5: Tecmo is releasing a life-size body pillow featuring Dead or Alive Ultimate's Kasumi in a bikini. (see image)
Source: Famitsu, the Cahiers du Cinema of Japanese gaming.
The official story: "I won't be able to give you an answer until next Monday since Japanese marketing guys are off for the weekend."--American Tecmo representative.
What we heard: According to Famitsu, each of the 5,000 limited-run Dead Or Alive Blue Xboxes released on March 25 will also come with a bonus: a pillow emblazoned with the likeness of Kasumi, one of the fighting game's characters. Were it normal-sized and its subject wearing normal clothes, the pillow might be cute. However, the pillow measures out at 160cm--five feet, three inches--and sports Kasumi in one of the more revealing swimsuits this side of Rio. There was no information about whether the pillowcase's fabric would be sensuously smooth and/or stain-resistant.
Bogus or not bogus?: Frighteningly, not bogus. What's next, a blow-up doll of Final Fantasy X-2's Yuna?