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What we heard: According to a handful of news stories popping up on various Web sites this morning, Electronic Arts--oft criticized for signing an exclusive deal with the NFL to make it the only gridiron game going--is looking to break up another company's lock on a popular genre: skateboarding.
Few details are making the rounds so far, but the game reportedly will be called Skate, and will likely arrive on next-gen systems in 2007, with the PlayStation 3 a definite platform. It appears that the new issue of PSM is the source of these articles, although GameSpot's efforts to track down a copy at area bookstores proved fruitless.
Activision's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series burst onto the scene causing a stir like the star's signature 900. It also spawned a cottage industry of Tony Hawk knock-offs, but while all of those have since fallen by the wayside (including Activision's own efforts in other extreme sports), the Hawk series continues to soar.
The official story: An EA representative merely confirmed that Skate was in development, and that more details would be coming soon.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. [UPDATE] EA has now confirmed that "SKATE will be released for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360" in 2007.
What we heard: Even on their best days, most gaming message boards are not known as level-headed venues where different ways of thinking are welcome or accepted. So when Cheap Ass Gamer forum-goer "Hack" posted a picture of a GameStop flier over the weekend that said the retailer was requiring the $50 deposit on Wii and PlayStation 3 pre-orders to be paid in game trade-ins (cash or credit not accepted!), there was naturally much ado.
Gamers took the news and ran with it, spreading it around various message boards and getting a bit of coverage from news aggregators as well. However, as the news spread, it seemed certain nuances were lost. The original poster, Hack, updated his post to clarify things as he understood them after a call back to the store where he picked up the flier.
"I will repeat that I never said this was official, or meant this to be an official nationwide announcement," Hack wrote in an update to his post. "As the beginning of this post has always stated (or rather, used to state), I'm not aware if this is a nationwide trend or not (and we have learned that it currently IS NOT). I do live in Hawaii, and therefore this could only be in my region. This is basically a small scale test of this new pre-ordering method. That means that if this test succeeds in Hawaii, it could possibly take effect nationwide."
It seems the GameStop employee who filled Hack in had the facts straight. A spokesman for the retailer told us today that the pre-order stipulation is real, but stressed that it is only a test, and one that the company is conducting only in Hawaii. He also said the test began and ended today, and that the company doesn't have an official nationwide program for pre-orders yet. It's unknown if Hawaiian customers will get another crack at pre-orders in the nationwide program, whatever form it may take.
The test is over, and it will be a little while before we see whether or not GameStop decides to embrace that strategy on a nationwide basis. However, it seems likely that GameStop, and possibly other retailers as well, would do something to improve their bottom line on console launches.
Whereas the profit on new game hardware is traditionally very small, the profit on selling used games is considerably higher. Requiring trade-ins to cover the deposit would be one way for retailers to better their bottom lines without requiring the bundled purchases that have become common from online retailers, including GameStop's own Web store.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that the plan is nationwide. Not bogus that GameStop was using Hawaii to test consumer reaction to the idea.
Source: The hopes and dreams of Nintendo fans everywhere and, more specifically, Wired News.
What we heard: Gamers hoping to flail about while playing the latest Japanese-only games on their US Wiis take note: Nintendo's next-gen console appears to be region-free.
The question of whether or not gamers will be able to play imported games on the upcoming console has been looming for quite some time now, with Nintendo neither confirming nor denying the feature. The company embraced region-free gaming with the Nintendo DS but has been evasive when asked if the Wii would follow suit.
However, today among the heavy stream of Wii news, Wired News said Nintendo of America VP of marketing and corporate affairs Perrin Kaplan had finally confirmed that the console will indeed be region-free--in theory.
"Will the Wii be region-free? Yes. Like the Nintendo DS, the Wii will be able to play games from other regions, such as Japan, without any restriction. Kaplan implied there might be a region lock that publishers would be able to flip on, but it doesn't sound like the first-party titles from Nintendo will be restricted."
Nintendo still has yet to make a wide, media-friendly announcement on the subject. Hyping a feature such as region-free gaming would seem to be a no-brainer, so the company's coy stance raised concerns. Even the article's author seemed a bit skeptical with a careful choice of words: "Kaplan implied there might be a region lock that publishers would be able to flip on, but it doesn't sound like the first-party titles from Nintendo will be restricted."
The official story: Getting answers from Nintendo proved difficult during one of the company's busiest days of the year. However, after a lengthy exchange of cryptic e-mails, a rep finally confirmed that Kaplan's words regarding regionless first-party titles and potentially regionless third-party titles were indeed correct: "[The] Wii will be region-free."
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.
Source: Taiwanese electronics-industry news site Digitimes.
What we heard: In September 2005, Microsoft announced it was supporting HD-DVD to succeed DVD as the next video format. Ever since, many have speculated that the software giant was planning a new version of its Xbox 360 console that would have an internal HD-DVD drive. Conventional wisdom was such a device could counter the PlayStation 3's inclusion of an internal drive for Blu-ray Discs, HD-DVD's rival.
However, in the intervening year, rumors of a HD-DVD-equipped 360 have largely died down. One big reason was Microsoft's unveiling of an external HD-DVD player at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2006 in May, which will let 360 owners watch HD-DVD movies when it goes on sale later this year. Another factor was the delay and scaling-down of the PlayStation 3 launch due to problems manufacturing Blu-ray drives--thus eliminating the immediate need for a competing product.
Today, though, reports of a HD-DVD-equipped 360 were back in the news, thanks to the Digitimes article. "Microsoft has started designing a new generation of Xbox 360s equipped with an internal HD-DVD drive and is selecting manufacturers in Taiwan to build the drive, according to sources in Taiwan's optical disc drive (ODD) industry," the publication claims. "If the process of selecting partner makers and subsequent certification goes smoothly, Microsoft may launch the Xbox 360 equipped with the built-in HD-DVD drive in the first half of 2007 at the soonest, the sources noted."
The official story: When contacted by GameSpot, Microsoft PR reps ladled out their 30 millionth serving of "We do not comment on rumors and speculation." However, they did, in fact, offer some additional comment, saying "Microsoft has been on the record on this issue in the past," and directed editors to a post on Gamerscoreblog.com, the collective blog of Microsoft's Games Global Marketing team. That post, which went up in June, succinctly summed up the company line thusly. "We have no plans to release an Xbox 360 with an internal HD-DVD," it said. "What we showcased at E3 was an external HD-DVD drive, and we're sticking with that."
Bogus or not bogus?: Officially bogus. Unofficially? Hard to say. Digitimes has been the source of many interesting rumors in the past--but not all of them have been accurate. In February, the site reported that Sony was planning to release a PSP with 8GB of flash memory by year's end--which now seems highly unlikely.
Source: A car design contest announcement on car manufacturer Peugeot's Web site.
What we heard: Project Gotham Racing 3 sat pole position for the Xbox 360 launch, was critically lauded for both its gameplay and graphics, and was considered by some to be an early benchmark for next-gen graphics. The Project Gotham Racing series is currently the reigning Xbox-exclusive racing champ, so the prospect of continuing the series seems like a no-brainer.
It's no surprise, then, that word of Project Gotham 4 has already spread on the Internet. What is surprising, however, is its source. On the Web site of car manufacturer Peugeot, the company has announced a car design contest, which runs from October 6 to December 4. The winner will see his or her design turned into a full-scale model, which will be displayed at the Frankfurt 2007 Motor Show and will be included as a drivable car in the "Project Gotham Racing 4 game, exclusively on Xbox 360 that will be released towards the end of 2007 or first half of 2008," according to the contest rules.
Developer Bizarre Creations, the studio behind the Project Gotham Racing series, hasn't yet revealed any details on PGR4, nor has it said the game is currently in the works. The company is putting together The Club for Sega, which will hit multiple platforms sometime next year.
Even without any official announcement of PGR4, the game is almost certainly planned, if not already in development. The release date is suspect, however. Given that PGR3 has been out only since late last year, it's a bit too early to speculate on how long it will take for the next-generation's first true sequel. On the other hand, the PGR series has seen a new installment every two years, putting 2007 right in the headlights.
The official story: When asked for comment, a Microsoft representative said: "We have not made any announcements at this time."
Bogus or not bogus?: Project Gotham Racing 4 in the works? Not bogus. Release date of 2007/2008? Probably not bogus, but we'll wait for official word from Bizarre first.
Source: An article on UK game site MCV.
What we heard:
The Nintendo Wii is no stranger to rumor and speculation, thanks mainly to the company's ultratight-lipped policy on launch details. Nintendo officially confirmed a Q4 launch for the Wii at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, but the price of the console has been the subject of much discussion among gamers and analysts. The closest that the company has come to an official line was at Leipzig, where Nintendo's German general manager said that the console would retail for under 250 euros ($320, £169) in Europe.
Nintendo is expected to firm up those elusive price and release-date details next week when it holds press conferences in New York and, reportedly, Japan. However, ahead of these conferences, respected UK industry magazine MCV has broken the news that Nintendo's Wii will hit retail worldwide before November 24, with a £149 ($281, 220 euros) UK price point.
The magazine, which was released today, doesn't cite any individuals for the details, although it says sources have told the publication that supply stock will not be an issue in the UK. According to the publication, there will be plenty of units for both the November launch and the run up to Christmas, which should eradicate any of the preorder woes that have blighted recent major console launches.
While the Web site seems confident about these details and has run the story on its front page, the information was obtained before the news of Sony's PlayStation 3 postponement in Europe. Though it's possible that this will affect the launch date and pricing, MCV expects Nintendo will want to take advantage of the opportunity present in Europe.
Interestingly the £150 price point sits right in the middle of what most people were expecting, although the American equivalent seems quite high--Nintendo has never launched a console in the US for over $200.
The official story: When asked for comment, a Nintendo representative told GameSpot UK: "We know that everyone is as excited as we are about the pending launch of Wii, and as a result, there is a lot of speculation and rumors. We ask people to be patient, as all will be revealed in due course."
Bogus or not bogus?: MCV's extra-broad timetable and price point seem legit, but without any firm sources, we'll take it with a grain of salt. Probably not bogus.
Source: A Forza Motorsport 2 thread over on the Gaming Age forums.
What we heard: One phrase Xbox-owning racing fans are no strangers to is "Forza Motorsport is delayed." The game was first shown off at E3 2004 and was expected to ship that holiday season. Then it was delayed...and delayed again...and delayed again.
So it likely comes as little surprise that the game's successor is in the rumor mill as also being a victim of delays. Forza Motorsport 2 for the Xbox 360 was scheduled to be released this November, in time for both the holiday rush and the release of the Xbox 360 wireless steering wheel. Now, according to a post over on the forums at Gaming Age, it appears Forza 2 won't hit the streets until 2007.
In a message board thread debating the authenticity and looks of some new screenshots for the game, a poster going by the handle of "chespace" hopped into the mix, confirming that the shots were indeed real. In a subsequent post, he wrote that "Forza 2 will no longer ship in Holiday 2006 -- a new date will be given at X06." He also says the game "is far from finished" and the screenshots are part of a "work-in-progress."
Of course, regulars to the Gaming Age boards know "chespace" as Che Chou, former editor at popular print publication Electronic Gaming Monthly and current community manager for Forza 2.
Announcing the delay of the game on public forums seems like an odd place to do so, and quickly scouring the official Forza 2 forums turns up only a few peeps referencing the post on Gaming Age. Chou may have leaked the info a bit prematurely, as inquiries into Microsoft were stonewalled.
The official story: "Microsoft has not announced anything at this time."--Microsoft spokesperson.
Bogus or not bogus?: Nothing is official yet, but Rumor Control isn't waiting--the game is almost certainly delayed. Not bogus.
Source: Several sites, including DS fan site DS-X2.com.
What we heard: When the DS was first launched in 2004, many gamers simply took it for a gaming machine--mostly because that is what Nintendo marketed it as. Since its release, however, the machine has proven to move beyond Mario rehashes, with its Touch Generation brand of edutainment titles, Play-Yan media player, and recently released Web browser.
Little new info was released at Nintendo's press conference at the recent Leipzig Game Conference, but the company may be adding even more functionality to its precious handheld. Web site DS-X2 said that hidden in a Nintendo brochure was a "Nintendo MP3 Player" for the DS and DS Lite.
The information in the brochure (pictured--photo widely circulated on the Web) is in German, but translating the text reveals that the player will reportedly use SD cards (up to 2GB capacity) and display whatever pertinent tags (song names, artist names, albums, and the like) are available on a "graphics interface."
DS-X2 claims the add-on looks similar to the Play-Yan media player, which was released only in Japan, for the Game Boy Advance and DS. The site also reports that the MP3 player will be released on October 6 for just under 30 euros (approximately $38 in the US), will include Nintendo-themed skins, and will have a headphone port on it.
Nintendo has yet to officially announce the product, so DS owners are left to trust Internet hearsay. However, such an accessory would fall in line with Nintendo's recent push to make the DS more of a multimedia player along the lines of Sony's PSP.
The official story: "Nintendo of America has not announced an MP3 player for the DS."--Nintendo spokesperson.
Bogus or not bogus?: While Rumor Control doesn't believe this will be an iPod-killer, it does believe it's real. Not bogus...but will it come to the US?
What we heard: Would a Bully by any other name be as controversial? We might soon find out, as Computer and Video Games is reporting that Rockstar Games' Bully, the subject of protests and public outrage from parents and pundits for more than a year, has undergone a name change in some territories. According to the article, Bully will henceforth be known outside of the US as Canis Canem Edit, Latin for Dog Eat Dog and the motto of the game's fictional Bullworth Academy.
Supporting that notion is a product page on the site of UK retailer Game that carries the reported name change, and includes box art to reflect it. Similar to previously released promotional art for the game, it merely features the academy's crest on a blue background, but has the new title arced over top.
Interestingly enough, the cover image also features a TBC (to be confirmed) 15 rating label on it, which means Rockstar is expecting (or at least hoping) that the British Board of Film Classification declares it suitable for gamers 15 and older. For reference, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Resident Evil 4 each received the 15 rating, while Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Dead Rising were slapped with the board's more restrictive 18 rating. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board has yet to issue a rating to the North American edition of the game.
The official story: Rockstar reps didn't return GameSpot's requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus, but it's unclear how many territories the name change will affect.
The official story: Sony had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: This week's big rumor comes courtesy of a series of blogs, such as Evil Avatar and Joystiq. Both sites reported that the latest edition of PSM--which touts itself as America's only "independent" PlayStation Magazine--had rock-solid news of a PlayStation Portable redesign.
According to both sites, the October issue of PSM contained an article announcing that a new PSP will ship in March 2007, have eight gigs of built-in flash memory, sport a slimmer form factor, include a built-in camera, and have two--count 'em--two thumbsticks!
Though news of such developments sounded like the answer to many frustrated PSP owners' prayers, it turns out it was premature. GameSpot's supersecret investigative unit took extreme measures and went out and actually bought a copy of PSM.
On page 34 (pictured) of the magazine is the article, titled "The Next PSP Comes Together," that many sites cited as gospel. However, the piece is actually largely speculative. It says that a new, camera-equipped PSP is "expected" next March, but doesn't give a source. It mentions "numerous reports in the semiconductor press" regarding Sony buying large amounts of 8GB flash-memory units--presumably the same reports mentioned in Rumor Control back in February. Nowhere does it say that the new PSP will have 8GB of memory, only that such a move is "likely." The addition of two thumbsticks is mentioned in a clearly marked "if we retooled the PSP" subsection listing changes the PSM editors would like to see in a PSP 2.0. However, the article itself says such an addition is unlikely.
The PSM article does cite "PSP developers who have been briefed on Sony's plans" as saying that the handheld will have "a high degree of connectivity" with the PlayStation 3--something Sony has stated publicly on numerous occasions. Also, "sources familiar with its development" confirmed the new PSP would be "thinner and lighter" than the current model. However, that’s all the article said was set in stone, and PSM is upfront about the rest being speculative--not that such distinctions make a difference in the blogosphere.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.
Source: A tipster who provided a YouTube video of some horrid football.
What we heard: One of the improvements Electronic Arts has made to its football juggernaut Madden NFL series in the last few years is the addition of the superstar mode. In SS mode, gamers create a player, choose a position, and bring him up through the league, controlling only the player and going to whatever team the business of football takes him.
As a result, control over the rest of the team (including play calling) is by default under the control of the computer. Imagine one gamer's distress then when the CPU-controlled quarterback started heaving bombs...in the wrong direction.
A GameSpot reader tipped Rumor Control off to a bug that sees pigskin chuckers throwing balls into their own end zone "at least four times" in each superstar mode game. A video posted on YouTube shows the alleged bug in action, with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb showing off his incredibly powerful arm and incredibly wrong sense of direction. The result is a massive loss of yards and often a safety--game glitch 2, user 0.
The tipster claims that it affects the European versions of the PlayStation 2 edition of the game, and digging through various message boards, including the ones over at the official Madden NFL 07 Web site, seems to confirm this.
It's currently unclear whether or not the glitch is widespread or isolated to a few copies of the game. However, given that the game was released in Europe only this past Friday, its magnitude should be known soon.
If there is a bug going around, it's likely that EA will fix it--it just may take a while. The company set a precedent this year with its agreement to swap out copies of NCAA Football 07 for the PSP that were experiencing a "ball-spotting" glitch with new copies. EA offered $15 off any purchases made at their online store as apologies for the inconvenience.
Until EA acknowledges the bug and decides to do something about it, it looks like European Madden fans will have to work on their franchise modes.
The official story: EA did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looks not bogus. Expect word from EA soon.
Source: An e-mail "Wii Launch Party" invitation posted on the Gaming-Age forums.
What we heard: Secrets are tough to keep in the gaming industry. Leaks, moles, and cocktail hours generally spill the beans on the juiciest details before they're intended to go public. It's a wonder, then, that the season's biggest secret, the release date of the Nintendo Wii, remains unearthed.
The latest bit of quasi-information on the system's launch comes via the message boards over at Gaming-Age. Melissa from Web show GameLife posted an e-mail (pictured--click to enlarge) she received from Nintendo that invited her to a Wii launch party in Los Angeles...on November 17.
The date is no doubt familiar to gamers as the day the PlayStation 3 launches, but is it also the day the Wii launches? By all accounts, it would appear so. So that's it, case closed, right?
Not so fast. As reported by several gaming sites, including game blog Kotaku, Nintendo is also holding an event in New York City on September 14 which will be hosted by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime. With Nintendo promising to release information on the console's price and release date in September, the smart money says that the NYC event will be the place the final details of the Wii are out of the bag.
But what of the Los Angeles event? Of course it could be the console's release date--after all, it is a launch party. But why would Nintendo make such a blatant error in sending out the information in a simple party invite rather than making an official announcement? The company is too smart to let something like that slip by.
Nintendo has insinuated that it plans to take the console on the road to prove its "Playing is Believing" slogan, so the LA party could be part of that tour and doesn't necessarily need to fall on the actual launch date--it could take place before or after. In fact, the rest of the invitation mentions the following: "These 'secret' parties will be held all across the globe to celebrate the worldwide release of the Wii..."
Something fishy is going on here (including the possibility of a Photoshop monkey hard at work nearby). Looks like we'll all have to wait until September to find out what Nintendo's up to.
The official story: Nintendo was unavailable for comment.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that Nintendo is planning some mega prelaunch (and launch) events, but likely bogus that November 17 is the launch day.
Source: Game site Gamingbits citing the game's review in OXM.
What we heard: When an Xbox Live version of Lumines was announced during Microsoft's pre-E3 press conference, many gamers were joyed to hear they would get their block-busting on in high definition. The game takes the popular PSP puzzle game to Microsoft's Xbox 360 with a variety of new features, including the ability to show licensed music videos as the background.
However, gamers knew the new additions weren't going to come cheap, and a leaked release schedule for Xbox Live Arcade (which proved only to be partially accurate), claimed the game would cost 1200 Marketplace points ($15). (Microsoft has still not yet released an official price for the game.) If gamers didn't like that piece of speculation, they certainly won't like the news that hit the Internet today.
Citing a review in the latest issue of OXM, Gamingbits.com reports that further charges to gamers will be made to advance in the game. According to Gamingbits, the review states that gamers will be "prompted to buy the Puzzle/Mission Pack" for 400 Marketplace points at some point during the game's mission mode. In the VS CPU mode, the Web site reports that OXM says that players will be "blocked by signage declaring: 'You need the VS CPU Pack'" for 300 Marketplace points. (As of press time, GameSpot was unable to obtain a copy of OXM for confirmation.)
Gamingbits then goes on to say, "Sounds like the first negative penalty for doing good in a game to me. Maybe it would not have been so bad if they would have released levels separately instead of impeding gameplay?"
If it is true, it would be one of the more questionable business decisions in recent memory. Such a move would clearly warrant a mob of pitchfork-wielding maniacs descending on Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
While the game "prompts" gamers for a Puzzle/Mission Pack, the verbiage doesn't necessarily say it requires it. More disturbing is the description of the VS CPU Pack, which apparently says, "You need the VS CPU Pack" (emphasis added).
Still, it's unlikely that the game is shutting gamers out who just want to finish the main game. Microsoft has always pitched the game as being rich in downloadable content, so this is likely what's happening. Even so, while the exact wording of the review has us worried, we still believe the extra charges are for additional content packs.
The official story: When asked for comment, a Microsoft rep would only say that no specifics regarding Lumines Live! have been announced yet.
Bogus or not bogus?: Probably bogus. But you better keep that pitchfork sharpened and handy just in case.
Source: Tech blog Engadget via a lucky tipster.
What we heard: Nothing says "the next generation is here" quite like a webcam and the inevitable gratuitous displays of private parts. Microsoft is set to release its highly anticipated camera peripheral, Xbox Live Vision, for the Xbox 360 next month. However, if a report on Engadget is true, gamers may be getting peeks where the sun don't shine over Uno sooner than they think.
Over the weekend, Joystiq cited an anonymous source who claims that he already bought the camera from a local Toys 'R Us, despite the camera's apparent release date of September 19. The story is accompanied with a Flickr photo set complete with a Toys 'R Us receipt and the contents of the Vision package.
It appears a rumor that spread across the Web detailing the price and items in the Xbox Live Vision bundle may be correct. Included in the alleged set is the camera, a wired headset, a voucher for Xbox Live Arcade game Uno, and a one-month subscription to Xbox Live Gold--all for $39.99.
This wouldn't be the first time a street date for gaming gear has been broken by a retailer. Earlier this year, many walked away with DS Lites almost a week before Nintendo intended them to go on sale.
If it is true, it's good news for gamers who like to ham it up for the camera. If stores have the stock in already, the peripheral is ready to go and delays are highly unlikely. As for those lucky enough to pick one up? The spring dashboard update included camera support, so they'll get a head start in getting acquainted with Vision.
The official story: When asked for comment, a Microsoft rep would only say that no official date or price has been announced for the camera.
Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus. And probably best not to lay that Draw Four wild card without shielding your eyes.
Source: A teaser story on GamesIndustry.biz promoting an exclusive interview with David Gardner, executive vice president and COO of Electronic Arts' Worldwide Studios.
What we heard: This morning, industry trade site GamesIndustry.biz ran a story with the headline, "Wii will retail for around $170 - EA." According to the story, Gardner said the world's largest third-party publisher believes that Nintendo's console will arrive in North American shelves sporting a price tag of $170.
Combined with reports out of Japan last week that the console would launch for about $170 over there, the EA news could be taken as further evidence that Nintendo had settled on a price point for its next console. Having two such sources coming out with the same figure mere weeks before Nintendo is expected to make its official announcement would lend credibility to the idea that the Wii would hit shelves for less than half the price of a premium Xbox 360, and less than a third the price of the high-end PlayStation 3 package.
However, a few things didn't quite fit. The GamesIndustry.biz article says that EA is expecting a $170 price tag in North America. But the only quote it gives to back that up has Gardner saying "I've heard in Japan that the price is about $170…" There might be some context missing there, or perhaps it was taken to mean that Gardner heard while he was in Japan that the North American price would be $170. Regardless, it isn't clear where the $170 figure for North America came from.
On top of that, Gardner doesn't say from where he heard the information. It could be Nintendo, or analysts' expectations, retail partners, or ranting derelicts on the street corner.
Put those ambiguities together and it's entirely possible that Gardner was not referencing information he heard as a result of his position within EA, but instead referencing the original Japanese reports that had the Internet buzzing last week.
The official story: A quick e-mail to Gardner confirmed suspicions. "It was indeed the Japanese report," Gardner told GameSpot. "I read it on the Web--just passing the same rumor around… In any case I hope it becomes true!"
Bogus or not bogus?: The price might be not bogus, but EA saying it'll be $170 is definitely bogus.
Source: Game blog with the kooky spelling Joystiq.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: When Activision shelled out nearly $100 million for RedOctane, the studio behind Guitar Hero, many industry watchers thought the publisher was off its rocker. However, if a report on Joystiq is to be believed, Activision may just be doing a lot of rocking.
Joystiq cites an anonymous source as saying that there are "potentially" four more Guitar Hero games on the way, with Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero: Encore, and Guitar Hero: Axe Grinder among the options.
Guitar Hero II is due out later this year, and Eurogamer previously reported that RedOctane CEO Kelly Sumner had told MCV that "five or six" GH games could be available by mid-2007. (Activision has not announced any Guitar Hero game beyond Guitar Hero II.) Also a possibility for the popular franchise is the option to download songs for a price, and execs love microtransactions, especially Activision, which recently took in $1 million in Call of Duty 2 downloads.
Given that developing a Guitar Hero game isn't as much of a strain as an art-intensive action adventure game or a first-person shooter, pushing out a few Guitar Hero games in a single year isn't out of the realm of possibility. Several games in a year would also give RedOctane the chance to dedicate different editions to different musical genres--think Guitar Hero Country, Guitar Hero Speed Metal, and Guitar Hero Top 40 Garbage.
Should all these rumors prove true, it would make RedOctane a seriously prized possession...maybe even worth buying for almost $100 million.
RedOctane and Activision were not available for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Nothing is official yet, but given the hefty price Activision paid for RedOctane, it sounds not bogus.
Source: The Japanese edition of popular tech blog Engadget.
What we heard: Ever since it revealed the fully functional Wii at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in May, Nintendo has reminded the world that it will be cheaper than other consoles. However, they haven't said how cheap it will be, prompting an endless deluge of guesses, most of which have been under $250.
This week, rumors surfaced that the Nintendo Wii may be cheaper than even the most optimistic estimates. On Tuesday, the Japanese edition of Engadget reported it had discovered an interesting article from the Nikkei news service. The Nikkei article reportedly reports that Japanese investment firm Nikko Citigroup has downwardly revised the predicted manufacturing cost for the Wii's CPU, code-named "Broadway."
As a result of the savings, Nikko Citigroup now allegedly predicts that the Wii will retail for 19,800 yen ($171), instead of the 25,000 yen ($216) it originally set as the machine's maximum launch price. A quote attributed to the Nikkei article stated that "domestic [Japanese] sales [of the Wii] are also expected to be 50 percent higher than originally anticipated" due to the price drop.
While the Engadget Japan bit certainly sounds like music to gamers' ears, there's one slight problem. As of press time, the article cited as the source is nowhere to be found on Nikkei's Japanese-language Web site or its English-language counterpart. For its part, Engadget Japan freely admits the price is a rumor.
The official story: Nintendo reps said they had forwarded along GameSpot's requests for comment to high-level personnel, but the company had not issued a response as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: The lack of an original source article could mean two things. One, the article was posted and then pulled at Nintendo's request, as Nikkei has previously done for other companies. Or two, the article never existed...but why would the respected Engadget make it up?
What we heard: Ever since the Xbox 360 was first shown to the public in May 2005, rumors have surrounded it. Once the specs for the console were revealed, the speculation shifted from what the console could do at present, to what it will be able to do in the future.
Microsoft answered part of that question at E3 this year, unveiling several new peripherals, announcing Live Anywhere, and taking the wraps off the 360's external HD-DVD drive. Many speculated that premium, hard drive-equipped 360s fitted with the unpriced HD-DVD drive would cost around $600 a pop--that is, $399 plus a rumored $199. That's as much as the high-end model of the Blu-ray drive-equipped PlayStation 3, which has taken considerable flak for its premium price point.
This week, two sources reported that the 360 HD-DVD drive will indeed ring up at around $200. First was Digitimes, which stated flatly on Monday that "Microsoft will launch external HD-DVD drives for its Xbox 360 at a retail price of US$200 by Christmas of this year."
Seconding that opinion was HardOCP, which yesterday included the HD-DVD price point report as part of a piece titled "Xbox360 Roadmap Peeked At." The site elaborated on the add-on, saying it would "only require component inputs. ... No HDMI in sight." It also said that Microsoft would be releasing a cable to support 1080p video output. However, "little more information is known on [1080 output] or if there will be a gaming performance impact."
Last but not least, HardOCP revealed that the Xbox 360 would soon get functionality borrowed from a Windows Media Center PC. "While this is not a term that Microsoft used, the Xbox360 will be seeing an added on 'media jukebox' for handling tons of movies, video, pictures, and music," said the site. No mention was made as to whether Microsoft was going to release larger-capacity "outrigger" hard drives to store said media, since many 360 owners' 20GB HDDs are getting nearly full with game demos, trailers, and saves.
In other 360-rumor news, Digitalbattle reported that Microsoft is mulling a second controller specifically for first-person shooters. "The new controller would have an improved and more precise right analog stick for games requiring higher precision," read the report, which sourced Microsoft’s product unit manager Robert Walker's presentation at the Microsoft Gamefest developers' conference. Strangely, though, firsthand accounts of Walker's Monday speech, like the exhaustive recap of the session on FiringSquad.com, make no mention of an FPS-centric controller.
The official story: So what does Microsoft have to say about all this? Not much, unsurprisingly. Regarding the HD-DVD, "We haven't announced any pricing or availability at this point so we'll keep you posted," a rep for the game giant said regarding the HD-DVD. The same rep wouldn't comment on 1080p support and media jukebox functionality and would say only that "we have not made any announcements about a new Xbox 360 controller."
Bogus or not bogus?: $200 360 HD-DVDD? If bogus, it's a close estimate. Support for 1080p? Almost certainly. Media jukebox? Sounds probable, given that Windows Media Center PCs already have similar functionality. New FPS-specific controller? The jury's out on that one, but it would make sense.
Source: The Xbox 360 section of the Advanced Media Network.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: In May 2005, Microsoft confirmed that a shooter once destined for the GameCube, Perfect Dark Zero, was coming to the Xbox 360. Several months later, it was revealed that another title once bound for Nintendo's console, Too Human, was also coming to Microsoft's next-generation platform.
At the X05 event in Amsterdam last October, developer Silicon Knights unveiled a short Too Human trailer. This past May, a longer trailer of the Norse-mythology-meets-sci-fi-themed actioner was released on Xbox Live Marketplace. Meanwhile, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Denis Dyack, president of Too Human developer Silicon Knights, demonstrated the game to the press.
The increasing visibility of Too Human gave many hope that, after nearly a decade in development, it might be edging toward completion. However, over the weekend, reports began to bubble up that the title had hit another roadblock. "Sources tell AMN Xbox 360 that Silicon Knights...is ditching the Unreal Engine 3 for its upcoming Xbox 360-exclusive title, Too Human, in favor of coding its own engine, on account that the Unreal Engine does not work well with the Xbox 360 hardware," said Advancedmn.
Given how good the Unreal Engine-based games Mass Effect and Gears of War look on the 360, Advancedmn's report raised more than a small amount of skepticism. However, if true, the move could mean serious delays for Too Human, since starting over (again) with an all-new engine would entail a massive amount of programming work.
To clear up the confusion, GameSpot sent an e-mail to Dyack's personal account. Within minutes, the phone rang. On the other end was a rep for Microsoft Game Studios, Too Human's publisher, with a familiar response. "That is speculation, and you know Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation," he said.
[UPDATE] Tuesday morning, Denis Dyack contacted GameSpot via a Microsoft rep to flatly deny this rumor.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.
Source: Latino Review, a script-snooping site known for sneaking early peeks at some pretty big films. (WARNING: Review contains strong language and minor spoilers, some of which are repeated below.)
What we heard: After posting reviews of scripts for Halo, Splinter Cell, and Spy Hunter, LatinoReview is back with a write-up of Hitman, as re-imagined for the big screen by Skip Woods (Swordfish, Thursday). The write-up is light on spoilers or plot details, but heavy on praise.
"Even though most video games movies have been downright corny, that is absolutely not the case here," writes LatinoReview's El Mayimbe, who also handled the site's other recent game-based script reviews. "Hitman stands on its own merits as a testosterone laced action packed thriller while being faithful to its video game origins. You don't even have to be a fan of the games to dig this."
Overall, El Mayimbe gave the script an A, calling it "overwhelmingly clever and intelligent." While LatinoReview was similarly taken with previous gaming scripts (and indeed, tends to stay near the top of the A-F rating scale), the site will pan turkeys from time to time. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was called boring and "a painful read," which translated into a C rating.
As for the actual plot of Hitman (here's where the spoilers come in), it seems Agent 47 botched a job in Russia, leaving a witness alive. But, when he goes back to finish the job, a dedicated Interpol agent named Michael Whittier gets on his trail and a cat-and-mouse game throughout Europe ensues.
Given the re-writes Hollywood scripts are often subjected to, there's no way to tell if the script LatinoReview saw will be in any way representative of what winds up on the big screen. For instance, the glowingly reviewed Halo script from 28 Days Later screenwriter Alex Garland is now being reworked by new scribe DB Weiss, according to a recent Game Set Watch interview with Weiss.
However, LatinoReview has a track record with enough hits on it (check out the Batman Begins script review) that it's a safe bet El Mayimbe's assessment is based on a legit draft. Whether or not it's any good is a matter of taste, and whether or not it's a draft that will resemble the end product in any way is equally up in the air.
Bogus or not bogus?: That LatinoReview saw a Hitman script and liked it? Not bogus.