Retail sources claim Microsoft and publishers will take a percentage of every used game; rumored preowned activation fee could be £35.
Other Site Blogs
GameSpot Versus Beat the Pros Edition is a way for GameSpot members to test their skills against super star pro gamers. From FPS to...
You wake up in an unknown facility, in a medical gown and nothing else. The cold sense of reality sets in; you don't know your...
Source: UK gaming site CVG.
What we heard: Sony introduced its latest PSP iteration, the $250 PSP Go, during the first week of October, and one of its primary draws is its slim form. The handheld is 16 percent lighter, 35 percent smaller than the PSP-3000, and features 16GB of internal memory and a sliding screen that hides the gamepad controls when not in use. However, the minimalist look comes at the expense of a smaller screen and the lack of a UMD drive.
Considering Sony opted not to offer a way to convert UMD games into a PSP Go-compatible format, the decision to not include the disc drive has been problematic for those who own the physical media. However, it appears as if these people may soon have a solution, as UK gaming site CVG reports today that Logitech is creating a PSP Go-compatible UMD drive.
CVG's source told the site that the UMD add-on would plug into the PSP Go through unspecified means. As could be expected, the source went on to note that the add-on makes the PSP Go "a little bulky." Pricing information or a release date were not offered.
The official story: Neither Sony nor Logitech had responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: The available information remains a little thin to make a call either way. However, given that loyal PSP fans remain torn between giving up their game collections and forgoing the PSP Go, any company who could make a UMD adapter would have a guaranteed market.
Source: Ubiquitous social-networking site Facebook.
What we heard: Earlier this year, the 12-year-long Duke Nukem Forever saga came to an end when developer 3D Realms laid off almost its entire development team. Today, though, rumors that a new installment may be in the works began to circulate, thanks to a new Facebook profile of the cigar-chomping, catchphrase-spouting hero.
The profile, which appears to have been created last week, appears to be part of a viral marketing campaign to promote a new game, Duke Nukem D-Day. After posting the teaser status "Duke Nukem doesn't stay down for long," the profile's administrator posted a screenshot (pictured top) of what appears to be a screen of the game, which shows a helmeted soldier shooting a rifle at a towering monster inside a sports stadium.
The scene appears to be the same one glimpsed in leaked Duke Nukem Forever footage, which surfaced this past May. (The trailer, which is viewable below, contains brief nudity and profane language--viewer discretion is advised.) So is Duke Nukem D-Day a rebranded version of Duke Nukem Forever, which the still-extant 3D Realms retains the rights to? Or is it the Gearbox-developed "Duke Begins" game, which had a 2010 release date before development was suspended?
The official story: Take-Two Interactive and 3D Realms did not return requests for comment. Reps for Gearbox declined to comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Unclear. Given marketers' infatuation with low-cost social media campaigns, the Facebook page certainly could be part of a grass-roots PR campaign for an upcoming Duke Nukem game. Given the near-identical similarity between the image and the leaked video, the game could very well be a rebranded version of Duke Nukem Forever, the title for which was a synonym for vaporware throughout its development.
Unfortunately, even if the Facebook page is part of an official campaign for a new game, there's little chance of the flat-topped protagonist blasting aliens anytime soon. The Duke Nukem license is currently at the center of a heated legal dispute between 3D Realms parent Apogee Software, which retains ownership of the Duke Nukem IP, and Take-Two Interactive, which lays claim to Duke Nukem Forever's publishing rights. Is the name change a way to sidestep the wording in the Duke Nukem Forever publishing contracts? Time will tell.
[WARNING: Video contains coarse language and brief nudity--viewer discretion is advised.]
Source: See below.
What we heard: Since the release of BioShock in 2007, speculation has run rampant that 2K Boston is working on a new installment in the X-Com sci-fi strategy series. The rumor pyre heated up in March, when Ken Levine, the studio's iconoclast creative chief, declared he was "probably the world's biggest X-Com [fan]." In late October, the resume of an ex-2K employee plainly stated that the studio was working on an X-Com game for the Xbox 360 and PC.
That said, some doubt was cast on the X-Com theory in August, when 2K Boston job listings revealed that the studio's "next big project" is a "shooter." Now, various reports in the wake of a teaser video appear to have scuttled the notion that the studio's upcoming title will be an X-Com game. The clip in question was touted as a "mysterious new 2K games shooter" by game blog Kotaku over the weekend. Instead of X-Com's futuristic setting, it shows what appears to be the aftermath of modern-day military action in the distinctive Persian Gulf metropolis of Dubai.
Soon, though, the mystery surrounding the trailer appeared to have been dispelled by 1up. The gaming site uncovered an extended version of the trailer on the advertising video site Adland.tv under the title "2K Games Spec Ops Trailer by Marco Brambilla & Tronic." (The trailer has since been removed but is still viewable on sites such as Dailymotion and is embedded below.)
Spec Ops is the name of a series of military shooters published in the late 1990s and early 2000s, at first by the now-defunct Ripcord Games and eventually by Take-Two Interactive, owner of 2K Boston. The trailer appears to have been made by Tronic, a New York creative agency specializing in high-end computer graphics.
The official story: 2K reps had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Second, although the Spec Ops games were not well reviewed, they do have the same sort of contemporary military setting as the wildly popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Take-Two's portfolio currently lacks a high-tech shooter series, which have also proven profitable for Ubisoft in the form of the Tom Clancy series Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon. Last but not least, 2K Boston has the chops to handle a reboot, having developed SWAT 4 and its critically acclaimed expansion in its previous life as indie studio Irrational Games. However, whether it is also working on an X-Com game remains to be seen.
SPOILER WARNING: Details of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's plot are discussed below. Those who have not played through the single-player campaign of the game should stop reading now.
Source: See below.
What we heard: Anyone who has played the single-player campaign of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 knows it doesn't exactly shine a positive light on Russia. The game begins with machinations by a villain from the Eastern European country leading to a full-blown Russo-American war. That bloody conflict sees both a Russian invasion of the US and extensive American Special Forces operations inside Russia's eastern-most regions--not to mention a very limited nuclear exchange.
It's not surprising, then, that reports have surfaced, which indicate Modern Warfare 2 may have been censored--and temporarily banned--in Russia. A post on the Russian-language site Gotps3.ru claims that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game were recalled from stores on Friday. The PC version was released, but only after it had the game's most controversial level removed. In it, players participate in a terrorist massacre at a Moscow airport named after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's antagonist, the ultranationalist militia leader Imran Zakhaev. According to Gotps3.ru, console editions of Modern Warfare 2 will likely be rereleased in the next 10 to 20 days with the airport level excised.
The official story: Activision had not responded to requests for comment about the Russian release of Modern Warfare 2.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though it sounds not bogus, there isn't any hard evidence. Most mainstream reports on the matter--including pieces in the Silicon Valley blog VentureBeat and the British tabloid The Daily Mirror--link to Web sites that link to the Gotps3.ru story. With that the only source, the ban is far from officially confirmed.
[UPDATE] Activision now claims that Modern Warfare 2 was released as planned in Russia--but only on PC. An Activision spokesperson told GameSpot "Reports that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has been banned in Russia are erroneous. Activision only released a PC version of the game in Russia which went on sale on Tuesday, November 10."
However, as was reported, the game does not have the controversial Moscow airport massacre sequence. "Other countries have formal ratings boards that we regularly work with. However, Russia does not have a formal ratings entity," the rep said. "As a result, we chose to block the scene after seeking the advice of local counsel."
As of press time, Activision reps declined to answer questions about release plans for the console versions of Modern Warfare 2 in Russia.
Source: Blogging site ScrawlFX has posted images of what appears to be a PlayStation 3 version of popular social-networking site Facebook.
What we heard: At Microsoft's E3 2009 press conference, the platform holder announced plans to release an Xbox Live update later this year that would include support for social networking sites Twitter, Last.fm, and Facebook, which currently boasts more than 300 million users worldwide.
Whilethe formerly 360-exclusive Netflix streaming service is already live on the PS3, PlayStation users have been left wondering when other services would be making their way to their console. (It's worth noting these services and others are accessible through the PS3's built-in Web browser.)
The ScrawlFX pics suggest PS3 owners might not have much longer to wait. According to ScrawlFX, Sony's official PlayStation UK Web site contained images that showed a Facebook application accessible from the PlayStation Network account management tab. The images also appeared to depict the ability to change the colour of PlayStation Network profiles and view Facebook photos. Those images no longer appear to be available on Sony's site.
The official story: While the PlayStation UK blog is currently void of any official confirmation, a SCE Europe representative told GameSpot UK, "We'll have information on this shortly."
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus, but there's still nothing concrete on when the utility will launch, or which features of the online community will be supported.
Source: The forums of modder-friendly mecca Modmywhat.com.
What we heard: When Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City went on sale on October 29, the game was already at the center of a hype storm. However, the game soon was sucked into a speculation maelstrom, courtesy of a very small--and very fake--advertisement on one of the last pages of its manual.
The ad in question was for a nonexistent film, Liberty City, It's Over, a parody of the anthology New York, I Love You. In its center, the ad shows the cover art from Grand Theft Auto IV inside a torn-asunder heart--a sign some are taking to mean that the Ballad of Gay Tony is the last title of this GTA generation set in Liberty City. Then, below the title, are the words "Next Stop" above a rip in the poster--which shows another image underneath, as though the Liberty City, It's Over poster had been pasted over it.
The image inside that rip has become the subject of fierce debate. Is it a blue-gray and yellow hillside from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Or does it bear the pastel color palette of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Now, Modmywhat.com user "Lysergio" claims to have solved the mystery by producing a screen of a fake poster from Vice City. Modmywhat.com moderator "Gunner" went one step further, overlaying the two posters in an animated .gif to show an exact match when the parody poster is mirrored.
True to the hard-M-for-Mature ratings of the series, the suggestive poster uses a volcano surrounded by two tree-covered hills to advertise an erectile dysfunction drug. It was apparently on the wall of a porno shop in the game, or possibly the adult movie studio InterGlobal Films. The porn studio was at the center of several Vice City missions, which saw mobster protagonist Tommy Vercetti (voiced by actor Ray Liotta) assist erotic filmmaker Steve Scott (Dennis Hopper) and adult-film actress Candy Suxxx (real-life porn star Jenna Jameson). It is unclear if any of those characters would return, were Vice City to be remade using the Grand Theft Auto IV engine.
The official story: Rockstar reps had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though the existence of the Vice City poster could not be confirmed firsthand as of press time, the comparisons are awfully compelling--or an elaborate hoax. However, analysts are already predicting only a two-year gap between 2008's Grand Theft Auto IV and a full-fledged sequel--twice that between 2001's Grand Theft Auto III and 2002's Vice City. With the alleged teaser/fake film ad mentioning the month of March, news of the next GTA could be less than five months away.
Source: Largely unknown Irish gaming site The Gaming Liberty.
What we heard: It's been a long time coming, but Rockstar Vancouver will soon put the finishing touches on Max Payne 3. Originally scheduled for a winter 2009 release, Max Payne 3 was bumped to the first half of 2010. Following that game's launch, Rockstar Vancouver will apparently be returning to familiar territory, if an interview with the composer behind the studio's 2006 action adventure Bully is to be believed.
Yesterday, Irish gaming site The Gaming Liberty teased its engagement with Shawn Lee, who in addition to laying down the soundtrack for Bully also scored The Getaway. According to the site, the composer said that his upcoming projects include providing the tunes for Bully 2. "Yes. It looks like I will be doing the soundtrack for Bully 2 in the not so distant future," Lee reportedly said.
The highly regarded original Bully tells the story of Jimmy Hopkins, a delinquent 15 year old that is dumped at the front gates of New England private school Bullworth Academy by his mother. Familiar territory for Rockstar, the game became a lightning rod for controversy upon its release for the PlayStation 2 in 2006 due to its perceived affirmation of negative juvenile stereotypes. Mad Doc Software released an expanded version of the game, Bully: Scholarship Edition, for the Xbox 360, Wii, and PC in 2008.
The official story: Rockstar had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. Though The Gaming Liberty has no track record to speak of, musicians and other one-off contributors to games have a long and storied history of spilling information on unannounced titles. One example? In 2005, an Eastern European musician gave advanced warning of Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo III in 2005, more than three years before the game was officially announced.
Source: British industry site MCV.
What we heard: When it unveiled Project Natal at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June, Microsoft did not announce a release window for the new camera-based, controller-less motion-sensing technology. However, with Sony saying it will launch its rival LED-controller-based system next spring, it was widely assumed that Microsoft would also be targeting a 2010 release.
Today, MCV announced with typical self-promotional enthusiasm that it has learned details about Project Natal's launch. It cited unnamed sources who attended a behind-closed-doors meeting with Microsoft, which is apparently making the rounds at British developers and publishers to lay out its plans.
Unsurprisingly, those plans call for Natal to go on sale during November, the month when Microsoft traditionally launches new initiatives like the upcoming Twitter-ific, Facebook-friendly, and Last.fm-loving Xbox Live fall update. Microsoft also plans a sizable initial shipment of 5 million units, about one Natal for every seven of the nearly 34 million Xbox 360s that have been sold to date.
One thing that is surprising about Microsoft's reported plans is Project Natal's price. While early analyst guesses were in the $100-$150 price range, MCV's sources claim that Microsoft is pushing to make the add-on just £50 (approx. $83). The company is allegedly "trying to get as close as possible to [an] 'impulse buy'" price point for the add-on, despite it packing such complex features as voice recognition, facial recognition, and three-dimensional real-time motion sensing.
The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Given Microsoft's history, the November window seems likely. The confident-but-cautious initial shipment number also appears to be in the ball park.
That said, the "impulse buy" price point seems questionable. Microsoft is infamous for its inflated accessory prices, which it just reinforced by locking out all third-party 360 memory units. Would a company that charges $150 for a 120GB hard drive, $100 for a wireless network adapter, and $40 for a 512MB memory unit sell something as advanced as Natal for under $100?
Then again, Microsoft has shown no qualms in the past about taking deep losses to introduce new hardware. In its rush to bring the 360 to market, the company accepted a hardware failure rate that ended up costing it over $1 billion in warranty extensions and widespread criticism from consumers.
Also, if Natal is priced too high, third-party developers may be reluctant to get on board. "I think they said they were going to ship Natal with every Xbox when they actually launch the thing, so everybody will have one," declared Epic Games vice president Mark Rein last month. "And then they are going to sell it to everybody who doesn't have one. Or try."
Source: The Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), Germany's answer to the ESRB.
What we heard: Ever since it debuted in 2005, Capcom's Ace Attorney series has garnered a cult following on the DS. Though they wouldn't win the same critical praise as the first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, subsequent installments Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Justice for All (Jan. 2007), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trials and Tribulations (Oct. 2007), and Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (2008) saw decent sales in both the West and Japan.
The next installment in the voice- and point-and-click based courtroom adventure, Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, is due to arrive on the DS in February. However, there are now indications the franchises may be branching out onto a full-sized console. On October 29, the USK approved the Wii game "Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney" for players aged 14 and up--but offered no further information.
The official story: US Capcom reps invoked their right to not respond to requests for comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Game-rating boards' bureaucratic processes often preempt publishers' carefully orchestrated announcements of new games. In the US, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) unmasked Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, Guitar Hero: Modern Hits, Castlevania the Adventure ReBirth, and, most recently, a series of PSP pinball games based on hit Sony franchises like Uncharted.
Source: The Grand Theft Auto IV enthusiasts at Gtaforums.com.
What we heard: Last month saw the launch of the second Xbox 360-exclusive expansion for Grand Theft Auto IV, The Ballad of Gay Tony. The add-on was released as both downloadable content and a likely bestselling boxed retail product, Episodes from Liberty City, which also includes the first expansion, The Lost & Damned. Now, evidence has apparently surfaced that indicates the elder expansion will soon be available to owners of the PC version of Rockstar's crime-spree sim.
The revelation came as part of the latest patch (v. 220.127.116.11) for the PC GTAIV, available at the Rockstar Games Web site. Besides fixing assorted graphics issues, adding anti-cheating measures, allowing controls to be double-mapped to keyboards, and combining region-specific SKUs into one, the patch apparently added a list of Games for Windows Live achievements for the Lost and Damned (pictured).
The official story: Neither Microsoft nor Rockstar responded to requests for comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Likely not bogus. While Microsoft paid Rockstar some $50 million to keep the GTAIV expansions exclusive to the 360, both companies would obviously love to make as much money as possible. A staggered release for The Lost and Damned would let Microsoft and Rockstar glean further coin from both DLC products and a PC Episodes from Liberty City retail collection while still shutting out the PlayStation 3.
WARNING! POTENTIAL SPOILERS ABOUT HALO: REACH BELOW!
Source: See below.
What we heard: Xbox 360 fans got a taste of 2010 this week, courtesy of an apparent leak about next year's eagerly awaited sci-fi shooter, Halo: Reach. The report originated on the Major League Gaming forums (registration required) with user "ToM MoReLLo"--who initially wrote his name all over the screens. Since then, the leak has turned into a spigot on the informational free-for-all that is the NeoGAF forums, which has posted subsequent details.
The legitimate-looking screens are allegedly of a very early build of the game, with unfinished graphics possibly based on a new engine. One level appears to show space combat, but the rest are on land--presumably on the game's titular planet, which was the setting of the first Halo novel, Halo: The Fall of Reach.
The book's plot chronicled a Covenant invasion of a United Nations Space Command (UNSC) fortress world, which was home to the program to develop SPARTAN supersoldiers--such as Halo series hero the Master Chief. It was also the site of a secret archeological dig that uncovered an ancient artifact from the Forerunners--the Halo-building ancient race, which are worshipped as gods by the Covenant. Unsurprisingly, the multiracial empire of religious zealots wants the artifact for themselves and invade en masse to get it.
The missions described in the leak appear to fit into the events of the Fall of Reach, with both having multiple male and female SPARTANs attempting to gain control of Reach's planetary defense grid. Halo: Reach will apparently also feature some search-and-rescue levels of the original Halo game (that is, go find space marines who crashed their dropship). It will also feature some infiltration and sniper-focused modes a la ODST, including one where Covenant forces fight with some of Reach's more aggressive wildlife.
The screens also show some convincing-looking Halo: Reach-branded menus--which indicate it will have a "privacy" switch to turn off drop-in co-op play. Another in-game screen appears to show four health bars by a radar screen, likely showing the status of co-operative players or possibly non-player characters.
Several Halo: Reach weapons are also revealed in the screens. One new addition is the needler carbine, which shoots three needles that explode once stuck in an opponent, provided said opponent's shields are down. A tweaked version of Halo 2's battle rifle will also be returning, sporting scoped single-shot action and a 12-shot clip. The assault rifle, needler, and SPARTAN laser also look set to return, along with the Warthog vehicle, which will come in a new missile-launching variant.
The official story: Wait for it…
"Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: The screens look too detailed and information is a bit precise for this leak to be bogus. And with the Halo: Reach beta coming in early 2010, anyone who bought the beta-key equipped Halo 3: ODST won't have that much longer to wait.
Source: UK-based gaming site CVG.
What we heard: Microsoft is expected to launch its camera-based motion-sensing device currently known as Project Natal in 2010. As software support will factor heavily into the success of the Xbox 360 add-on, the publisher has already signaled its intent to have its internal studios heavily back Project Natal. Last month, Peter Molyneux confirmed that Fable III will make use of the device, and Microsoft has indicated through a host of job listings that it is building out an all-new studio dedicated to Project Natal development.
Of course, Banjo-Kazooie developer Rare, which Microsoft purchased in 2002, is also at work on Project Natal software. However, according to CVG, the studio's Natal development has apparently come at the expense of a sequel to the Xbox 360 launch title Kameo: Elements of Power. Citing unnamed sources, the site reports that Microsoft also ceased Kameo 2 development due to disappointing sales of the critically praised original.
CVG's sources went on to note that Kameo 2 was taken out of the development pipeline around the time that the publisher restructured Rare earlier this year. At that time, Microsoft Game Studios reps declined to comment on whether the restructuring effort would affect any in-development projects. However, the publisher did indicate that it would be "implementing a new approach to current projects in the pipeline."
The official story: Microsoft had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. According to the NPD Group, the original Kameo has sold just over 300,000 units in the US since its November 2005 launch despite being offered at a lower price point than normal 360 titles. That figure is markedly lower than even Rare's other launch title, Perfect Dark Zero, which has moved some 655,000 units over the same period of time, according to NPD.
Source: The Reuters news service.
What we heard: Electronic Arts has yet to officially announce a follow-up to 2008's acclaimed Dead Space for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, but developer Visceral Games has ostensibly already begun staffing up for it. Last month, EA began accepting applications to work on a sequel, saying "the game is in the later stages of preproduction, ready for production in the next few months, with many of the navigational and combat mechanics in place."
Given the advanced state of preparations for Dead Space 2's full-blown development, it's conceivable the game could launch by late next year. That window appeared to have been confirmed today when, as part of a Halloween-themed feature on horror games, Reuters reported that Dead Space 2 is indeed shipping next year. The news service offered no other details on the unannounced sequel, nor did it attribute EA as the source of its information.
The Dead Space franchise has had no problems securing critical plaudits, but getting those high review scores to translate into blockbuster sales has been a different story altogether. In May, EA said that the original Dead Space had sold more than 1.4 million units worldwide, a figure the publisher previously deemed satisfactory. However, its Wii prequel, Dead Space Extraction, has experienced a slower start. According to the NPD Group, the game shifted just 9,200 units during its first week at retail in the US.
The official story: "This comment by the Reuters reporter is speculative," an EA representative told GameSpot. "There is no announcement for a Dead Space sequel (or in this case, prequel) beyond Dead Space Extraction."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that EA has formally announced Dead Space 2, or that the game is confirmed for a 2010 release. However, given that the publisher has previously said that a Dead Space sequel is well into development, it will likely arrive next year.
Source: See below.
What we heard: An increasing number of gamers paging through the manual of the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City are noticing something eye-catching in its third-to-last page. It's a small mock ad (pictured) for the fictional film, Liberty City, It's Over, an apparent parody of the metropolis-focused short compilation movies Paris, J'taime and New York, I Love You.
In its center, the ad shows the cover art from Grand Theft Auto IV inside a torn-asunder heart--a sign some are taking to mean that the Ballad of Gay Tony is the last title of this GTA generation set in Liberty City. Then, below the title, are the words "Next Stop" above a rip in the poster--a phrase some are taking as a cue to the franchise's future direction.
Inside the rip is part of a blue-gray and yellow image that somewhat resembles the color palette of Los Santos, the Los Angeles facsimile in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It could also be that of Vice City, the Miami clone featured in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The fact that the poster also mentions the film is "coming in March" has some people wondering if that's the date when the next GTA will be announced.
Yes, the leap is pretty tenuous, and could just be another example of the random, wacky humor that is the GTA series' trademark. However, it has been shown that Rockstar loves to hide clues of its future plans in advance. One example is the Impossible Trinity achievement in Grand Theft Auto IV, where the protagonists of the two Xbox 360 expansions--Johnny Klebitz and Luis Lopez--meet the main game's protagonist, Niko Bellic.
Another reason the ad is getting so much attention is that Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter said he expects the next installment in the GTA series next year. In a note sent to investors in early September, he said he expects the next full GTA game to arrive by the 2010 holiday season. He also expects Episodes from Liberty City to sell between 1 and 1.5 million units domestically, a prediction that--if realized--shows that demand for GTA games is as strong as ever.
The official story: Rockstar did not respond to requests for comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Too little to go on. However, there's no doubt Rockstar is making a new GTA. And with San Andreas and Vice City being two of the best-selling games of the decade, Rockstar founders Sam and Dan Houser would be foolish not to revisit those locales as they did Liberty City.
Source: In a post on his blog, tech analyst Dan Rayburn said he'd received confirmation that Nintendo is already testing Netflix streaming for the Wii, with a release possible later this year.
What we heard: In his relatively brief blog entry, Rayburn said he'd received screenshots of Netflix up and running on the Wii. He added that after some effort, he received confirmation that the shots were authentic from someone involved in the project and that Nintendo is testing the Netflix service on its console for release "very soon."
The rumor of Netflix coming to the Wii is nothing new. In June, Netflix sent out a customer survey to gauge interest in a Wii version of its streaming video service. Months earlier, the company posted a job opening for an engineer to oversee work on a variety of gaming platforms.
Just last month, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said it was the company's plan to eventually get his movie-rental company's streaming video service on all consoles. And with this week's announcement that Netflix is indeed arriving on the PlayStation 3, Nintendo's latest hardware is the last remaining console without official Netflix support. (Although it's not officially released yet, a Wii-compatible version of the third-party PC program PlayOn is in public beta and allows users to stream video from Netflix, as well as sites like Hulu and YouTube, to Nintendo's console.)
The biggest reason to doubt Rayburn's post is probably in his explanation of the Netflix launch's timing.
"What I'm hearing is that Nintendo originally planned to bring the Netflix service to the Wii before the end of this year, which still might take place, but that Nintendo is also considering holding off on the Netflix service until they release their next generation Wii HD unit in early 2010," Rayburn said.
Like Netflix on the Wii, the rumor of an HD-capable version of Nintendo's hardware has popped up multiple times in the past. Even putting aside the question of whether Nintendo would ever abandon its blue ocean strategy and compete with Microsoft and Sony on one of the biggest advantages their hardware has over the Wii, the "early 2010" time frame seems incredibly soon for the launch of an as-yet-unannounced new console.
However, as Nintendo demonstrated earlier today with the announcement of the DSi LL, the publisher has in large part successfully kept hardware revisions under its hat. Previously, when Square Enix's CEO recently talked about the next Wii, he pegged it as a 2011 release, as did a rumor about the system from last year. In his own note about the possibility of a Wii HD, Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter suggested a 2010 launch, though he didn't specify when.
The official story: Representatives with Netflix and Nintendo had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Barring unforeseen technical difficulties, Netflix on the Wii is decidedly not bogus. As for Rayburn, some of the info he's been given is suspect, but the Netflix tidbit isn't so far-fetched.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated at the bottom.
SPOILER WARNING: The story below contains information that reveals major plot details about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The game's developer, Infinity Ward, is recommending a total media blackout for those who wish to play the game without any prior knowledge of its story.
Source: Leaked video viewable (for now) on CNN's user-submitted iReport section and on Mapmodnews.com. The same video has been pulled from YouTube "due to a copyright claim by Activision Games Inc," indicating its authenticity.
What we heard: In every trailer released for Modern Warfare 2--including the almost image-free teaser released at the 2009 Game Developers Conference--one event has loomed large. Each trailer depicts a group of Russian ultranationalist terrorists massacring civilians at an airport with assault weapons.
Now, footage has leaked that appears to show the game will indeed depict the massacre, reminiscent of last year's mass killings in Mumbai, India, which left nearly 200 people dead. In a move sure to ignite controversy, the footage indicates the game will cast players as one of the killers, having them shoot civilians en masse from a first-person view.
Several sites have posted footage showing the same group of five terrorists (including the player), wearing body armor over business suits, as has been shown in every trailer for the game. (See screen comparisons, which have leaked, lower-resolution footage on the bottom.) The killers first emerge from an elevator, as the sound cues in the very first trailer portrayed. Once out, they open fire indiscriminately into a crowd by the security lines before moving up a series of body-draped escalators shown in the "Infamy" trailer released earlier this month.
From there, the terrorists move through a shopping level--with the player dispatching wounded civilians squirming on the ground--before moving down another escalator. Then, the scene shifts to the airport's tarmac where they encounter a group of security personnel under a large passenger jet with red, white, and blue stripes. The same jet appears to be shown in the "Infamy" trailer but from the opposite viewpoint of the security personnel moving to stop the killings.
At that point, the leaked footage ends. However, despite being of low quality, the footage bears several telltale signs that indicate it is authentic--or an extremely elaborate mod. First is the fact the terrorists shown look identical to those in the last two official Modern Warfare 2 trailers. Second is the fact the blurry subtitles appear to show the name "Makarov"--the last name of the game's primary antagonist, Vladimir Makarov.
Third is the onscreen heads-up display, which appears to be the same as that in preview versions of the game shown to the press. Fourth are indications that the footage came from the same European source that posted video of a third-person multiplayer mode in Modern Warfare 2. Reflections on the screen showing another monitor and PlayStation 3 menu cues are the same as footage that appeared on YouTube before being pulled.
That same yanked third-person footage was confirmed as being legitimate in Twitter postings by Robert Bowling, director of communications for Modern Warfare 2 developer Infinity Ward. In a tweet today, Bowling also indicated that footage from the game's campaign had leaked out. In response to a message from a user asking "Do you think the leaked SP footage is too much?" he responded, "I know man. Media Blackout! I'll keep this Twitter feed and the official Infinity Ward YouTube spoiler free. Singleplayer leaks suck."
Interestingly, the footage shows a multiplayer icon over another terrorist's head, indicating the level could be played in the game's Special Ops co-op mode. One rumor circulating is that the player will be an undercover operative who is forced to participate in the massacre or blow his cover.
The official story: Reps for Modern Warfare 2's publisher, Activision, had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Infinity Ward is known for taking major risks to surprise its audience, and comparisons between official Modern Warfare 2 trailers and the leaked footage leave little doubt of the latter's legitimacy.
The bigger question is will the sequence impact Modern Warfare 2 sales? Sure, players can commit similar mass killings at any time in almost every Grand Theft Auto game. However, the brutal nature of the airport massacre and the ever-sensitive subject of terrorism might prove a toxic mix, in terms of publicity, if the mainstream media decides to pounce on it.
[UPDATE] Though US Activision reps remain mum on the matter, a UK spokesperson confirmed the leaked footage as authentic to game site VG247. The spokesperson also offered the following statement from Activision:
"The scene establishes the depth of evil and the cold-bloodedness of a rogue Russian villain and his unit. By establishing that evil, it adds to the urgency of the player's mission to stop them."
"Players have the option of skipping over the scene. At the beginning of the game, there are two 'checkpoints' where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can't be disabled."
"Modern Warfare 2 is a fantasy action game designed for intense, realistic gameplay that mirrors real life conflicts, much like epic, action movies. It is appropriately rated 18 for violent scenes, which means it is intended for those who are 18 and older." (The BBFC 18 rating in the UK is the equivalent of M for Mature in the US.)
[UPDATE2] Activision US has now issued the following statement. "The leaked footage was taken from a copy of game that was obtained illegally and is not representative of the overall gameplay experience in Modern Warfare 2. "
"Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 features a deep and gripping storyline in which players face off against a terrorist threat dedicated to bringing the world to the brink of collapse. The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism. "
"At the beginning of the game, players encounter a mandatory 'checkpoint' in which they are warned that an upcoming segment may contain disturbing elements and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene. Consistent with its content, the game has been given an "M" for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. The rating is prominently displayed on the front and back of the packaging, as well as in all advertising."
Source: Increasingly notorious information amalgamator Superannuation.
What we heard: In November 2007, rumors surfaced that 2K Boston was developing a reboot of the classic X-Com series. Since then, only a few breadcrumbs of information have leaked out. In March, studio head Ken Levine expressed his admiration for the tactical sci-fi franchise and admitted to recently playing its poorly received last installment, the 2001 shooter spin-off X-Com: Enforcer (pictured top). In August, job listings indicated that 2K Boston is working on an unidentified shooter, raising the possibility of another action title set in the X-Com universe.
Such a scenario appears to have been confirmed this week, when Superannuation dug up the resume of a 3D artist who worked for 2K Australia from January 2007 until April 2008. The resume lists the artist as working on two projects during that time: "Bioshock (Xbox 360, PC Game)" and "X-Com (Xbox 360, PC Game)."
The resume's cut-and-dried confirmation was obscured somewhat by subsequent Twitter messages from Superannuation's proprietor that pointed to a second X-Com in the works. The tweets read: "Apparently, there's a rumor that X-Com is being developed by Firaxis, which I wouldn't find hard to believe. I swear that I read they're working on a sci-fi game somewhere...The rumor is that there's two X-Com games--[an] FPS from Irrational and [a] turn-based one from Firaxis."
As it turns out, rumors of a Firaxis-developed reboot of X-Com go back to 2001. That's when Atari parent Infogrames bought X-Com publisher MicroProse, the birthplace of the wildly popular Civilization series cocreated by Firaxis cofounder Sid Meier. During a 2004 video interview promoting the relaunch of Pirates, Meier told GameSpot that Firaxis had entered into a long-term agreement with Atari to retain the X-com IP. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, the X-Com license transferred to Take-Two when it bought Firaxis in 2005.
The official story: "No comment." -- A tight-lipped 2K Games rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that 2K Boston is working on a new X-Com game of some sort, with a shooter spin-off being a strong possibility. As far as a second turn-based X-Com game from Firaxis is concerned, it would be the stuff of old-school gamers' dreams. And, as Fallout 3's massive sales proved, a critically acclaimed reboot of a classic franchise can reap massive rewards.
Source: The Who lead singer Roger Daltry told Massachusetts paper The Republican that The Who will be getting its own Rock Band. When an interviewer brought up the recently released The Beatles: Rock Band, Daltry said, "The game, yeah, yeah, they're going to be doing a Who one next year. There is one planned."
What we heard: It makes some sense that The Who would be next in line for the Beatles treatment. In addition to being one of the biggest classic rock acts out there, The Who has been tied to the Rock Band franchise almost since day one. When Harmonix originally announced full album downloads, The Who's Who's Next was the first one revealed, even if technical difficulties forced it to be scrapped in favor of a sampler of the band's hits. And in a promotional push for the sequel, the legendary British rockers played a surprise set at Harmonix and MTV Games' big E3 2008 Rock Band 2 party.
On the other hand, the report contained no more details about the game, leaving some question as to whether Daltry spoke of a stand-alone title like The Beatles: Rock Band, a retail-exclusive offering like the AC/DC track pack, or simply another round of downloadable content. A dedicated Who Rock Band game would also raise questions as to which songs would be included in the setlist. Versions of many of the band's biggest hits are already available in existing Rock Band games, including "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Pinball Wizard," "Baba O' Riley," "My Generation," "Who Are You," and "Behind Blue Eyes."
There's a long history of loose-lipped musicians breaking Guitar Hero and Rock Band news in advance of official word, and a slightly shorter history of them flubbing the details in the process. When Joe Perry spilled the beans on Activision's plans for Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, he said it would be Guitar Hero IV, not a stand-alone spin-off to the series. Then there's the Guitar Hero Jimi Hendrix and Rock Band Green Day downloadable content packs, which were initially reported to be full games by Slash and Billie Joe Armstrong, respectively.
While Daltry's statement about the game left room for interpretation, his endorsement of rhythm games was more concrete.
"Anything that gets nonmusical people interested in music is wonderful," Daltry said. "In my opinion, music is our last true great freedom. They can burn our books, they can burn our paintings, but they can't stop us singing and making music."
The official story: A Harmonix representative declined to comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Plans change, and interviews with musicians are often as open to interpretation as the songs they perform. Another wave of downloadable content for The Who is a possibility. However, given some analysts' disappointment with The Beatles: Rock Band's sales and the numerous Who songs already available in Rock Band, the idea of a stand-alone game for the band looks less appealing than it once might have.
Source: The indefatigable game-industry snoop Superannuation.
What we heard: As one of the best-rated games in history, Rare's GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 ranks high on many gamers' nostalgia list. However, despite occasional indications to the contrary, Rare's hallmark first-person shooter has yet to find its way to any of the downloadable shooters. Licensing issues are the cause for the omission, ranging from Microsoft's purchase of the studio from Nintendo in 2002 to Activision's acquisition of the James Bond game rights from EA in 2006.
However, it now appears as if headway has been made in those licensing issues, on some level at least. As spotted by Superannuation, the since-pulled online resume for a Eurocom Entertainment Software animator indicates that Activision is prepping a new GoldenEye game for the Wii in 2010. Eurocom has contributed to a number of Bond titles over the years, including Quantum of Solace, James Bond 007: Nightfire, The World Is Not Enough, and James Bond Jr.
That Activision is working a new James Bond title is no surprise. In December 2008, word emerged that Project Gotham Racing and Blur creator Bizarre Creations was at work on an original, vehicle-based Bond game unassociated with any film for a 2010 launch. Activision will also likely have a tie-in ready to launch alongside the next Daniel Craig-led Bond film in 2011.
Notably, as Eurocom has primarily handled development on Bond games for ancillary platforms, it remains unclear if the GoldenEye in question is one and the same as the game being developed by Bizarre Creations. Of course, that game hasn't been officially confirmed by Activision, either.
The official story: Activision had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus that Activision is working on a GoldenEye game. However, what shape and scope that game will assume has yet to be seen.
What we heard: Last November, Nintendo launched the Wii Speak peripheral both solo and bundled with Animal Crossing: City Folk. The peripheral incorporated a microphone to allow Wii owners to chat with up to three friends via the Wii Speak Channel, which features participants' Miis lip-syncing their conversations.
Though Animal Crossing: City Folk sold nearly a million units domestically, Wii Speak was not the sensation that Nintendo had hoped it would be. However, that appears to have not stopped the company from readying a portable version of the service. This week, several outlets spotted something strange on the Nintendo.com support page for an error encountered while using prepaid points cards on the DSi Shop.
The page read, "To redeem a Nintendo DSi Download Ticket number, such as for the Nintendo DSi Speak Channel, enter the number off the Nintendo DSi Download Ticket in 'Settings and Features' off of the main Nintendo DSi Shop page, then select 'Nintendo DSi Download Ticket.'" (Emphasis added.) Nintendo has since removed any mention of the DSi Speak Channel from the page.
The official story: US Nintendo did not respond to requests for comment, but a UK rep told CVG that "It's rumor, as nothing has been announced."
[UPDATE] "There are no plans for a Nintendo DSi Speak Channel at this time. The text for the error message in question was incorrect and has been removed." -- US Nintendo rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus, given the number of reports and the clarity of the language. Given that the PSP has Skype, adding a VoIP service to the Wi-Fi enabled DSi seems like a no-brainer. Hopefully it won't force gamers to use the DS's notoriously uncomfortable headset, currently used for in-game chat on select titles.