Source: See below.
What we heard: This may be the shortest rumor ever to shake up the game industry. This afternoon, MTV issued a press release alerting the world to a major announcement coming tomorrow at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT. They did so via a widely e-mailed press release with no actual body text and simply a headline: "Apple Corps Ltd. and MTV to Announce Exclusive Agreement to Develop Unprecedented Global Music Project."
How could one line cause such instant--and widespread--attention? Because, as made famous by its epic 30-year legal battle with iPod-maker Apple Inc. (formerly Apple Computer), Apple Corps Ltd. is the company whose main purpose is to manage and publish all forms of media related to a certain seminal 1960s rock quartet known as The Beatles.
One of the most influential bands in the history of modern music, the Beatles have sold billions of dollars' worth of records since their formation in 1960. The remain a major musical presence and multimedia phenomenon 46 years after they first gained popularity in the UK in 1962 and 38 years after they split up in 1970. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed the quartet--of whom two members survive--atop their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The official story: See above.
Bogus or not bogus?: Given that the only non-Apple press contacts on the announcement are for MTV Games and MTV Games' product catalog is all Rock Band-related (other than Phase on the iPod), this is looking not bogus. Guess Paul McCartney heard good things from Roger Daltrey on the legends-of-rock cocktail scene following The Who's E3 appearance. Now would they please give Led Zepplin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant a call?
[UPDATE] Well that was quick. Citing "several people familiar with the matter" the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is now reporting that "The Beatles have licensed songs to MTV Networks' Rock Band videogame series." The article offers no further details on which songs will be licensed or whether they will be available as downloadable content, a boxed product like the AC/DC Track Pack, or as a stand-alone game a la Guitar Hero: Metallica.
[UPDATE 2] A follow-up e-mail to the conference call describes the Apple Corps/MTV agreement as "exclusive." So much for Guitar Hero: Beatles Edition...
[UPDATE 3] Ok, it's official--the Beatles will be in an all-new game from Harmonix that won't bear the Rock Band name but will feature new types of gameplay. It's coming in Q4 2009 and will feature songs from all the Beatles' albums and feature elements related to their career.