Rumor Control: Son of Dreamcast and Xbox Next specs

[UPDATE] This week: PlayStation 2 Splatterhouse, Driver 3 delays, and gambling--Tekken style!

RUMOR #1: At E3, Sega will announce it is getting back into the console business.

Source: An e-mail blast inviting press to Sega's "mystery event" at E3.

The official story: "Sega cannot comment on rumors relating to its exclusive press event on day one of E3. Sega remains excited about its powerful lineup of yet-to-be-announced titles."--Sega spokesperson.

What we heard: Ever since Dreamcast production ceased in 2001, the console's diehard fans have held out hope that it would rise from the ashes. This week, hope came in the form of a one-paragraph press invitation to Sega's E3 presentation. "Learn about SEGA's 2004 lineup and hear BIG news you'd NEVER guess," read the invite, which promised "explosive news--something even YOU won't be able to guess!" (Emphasis in the original.) Within minutes, Sega loyalists were churning out messianic predictions of a new and improved Dreamcast. "Financially revitalized, finally debt-free, Sega now firmly believes it has what it takes to rule the roost," read one. But before you break out the straightjackets, consider this: Amusement-machine giant Sammy is Sega's majority stockholder, and its president, Hajime Satomi, is Sega's chairman. This year, Sammy's new Atomiswave arcade platform will replace the veteran NeoGeo format. The NeoGeo also came in a home console version, which had a customer base fanatical enough to shell out hundreds of dollars per game--in other words, a proven (if small) market. The Atomiswave's hardware is even more compact than the NeoGeo's. Sammy has announced that Sega will focus on developing games for the Atomiswave. Could Sega's big announcement be a new, Sega-branded home console based on the Atomiswave? It could be, but it would be sort of redundant, because the Atomiswave is already based on Dreamcast hardware.

Bogus or not bogus?: Although it's an intriguing theory, it's probably bogus. Note to Sega: Kudos for making one publicity e-mail go a long way.

RUMOR #2: A technical diagram of the Xbox Next has been leaked.

Source: Chinese hardware site GZeasy.com.

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumor and speculation"--Microsoft auto-response.

What we heard: Early this week, GZeasy.com posted a primitive block diagram of "Xenon," Microsoft's not so secret code name for its next-gen console. Since the diagram bore the name of Michael Dougherty, head of the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, many Xbox-watchers eager for inside information thought the schematic was legitimate. The device pictured did jibe with the Xbox Next that tech reporter Dean Takahashi described in a February San Jose Mercury News article--it will feature 256MB of main memory and three 3.5GHz CPUs sharing a 1MB L2 cache. While this seemed plausible to some, several experts interviewed by Gamesindustry.biz cast doubt on the schematic. "The diagram looks to me like it reflects the available information about Xbox 2 rather than being a sensible set of information to put on a document for developers," said one. Experts contacted by GameSpot found the fact that the diagram labels the inclusion of a hard drive as "not decided" particularly suspect.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus. While it's likely the Xbox Next will contain some of the features in the diagram, it's unlikely the schematic itself is authentic.

RUMOR #3: Namco will announce Tekken: The King of Iron Fist Tournament, the sequel to Tekken 4, on May 5.

Source: The official Yamasa Slot World Web site.

The official story: "We can't comment officially."--Namco representative.

What we heard: A whole lot of interest was stirred up by a small teaser on the Japanese-language Yamasa site, which showed several characters from the fighting franchise, including Ling Xiaoyu and Jin Kazama. Following some impressive Flash animation, the word "Tekken" appeared. Midweek, the clip was replaced by the teaser currently running on the site, which shows actual fight clips before ending with the English words "The King of Iron Fist tournament" and a promise of "Next Information May 5." Tekken devotees worldwide put the two together and started posting. However, the fact that the trailer was being displayed on a slot-machine manufacturer's site started many alarm bells ringing. Indeed, GameSpot has learned that the game in question will not be Tekken 5--whose development is something of an open secret--but either a pinball or slot machine bearing the Tekken license.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #4: Namco is rereleasing the classic Splatterhouse games on the PlayStation 2.

Source: Amazon UK, mammoth online purveyor of goods.

The official story: See response to rumor #3.

What we heard: Those who led a dissolute youth manhandling joysticks in stuffy arcades will fondly remember Splatterhouse. Players put on the hockey mask of Rick (a clone of Friday the 13th's Jason and an inspiration for Manhunt's masked killers), an undead parapsychology student who has to hew his way through a zombie army. Released in 1988, it was one of the most gory--and popular--titles of its day. Bringing back Splatterhouse would make perfect business sense for Namco, since it would tap into both the current craze for ultraviolent gameplay and arcade rereleases (which Namco Museum already exploited). Furthermore, the game has already proven a success on consoles--its two sequels were released directly for the Sega Genesis.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.

RUMOR #5: Driver 3 has been delayed.

Source: Essential online game vendor EBgames.com.

The official story: E-mails and calls to Atari were not returned.

What we heard: This one's simple. Until this week, the official release date for Driver 3 was June 1. Yesterday, EB changed its ship date to June 21, and the Driver 3 Web site now lists the release merely as "June 2004." Ergo, the game has been delayed. However, the postponement is not official--or very long. Let's just hope this isn't the first of a series of delays for the Reflections-developed driving game, which was originally supposed to come out in March.

Bogus or not bogus?: Technically not bogus. But if it takes Reflections three more weeks to iron out the kinks, what's the big deal?

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