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Source: Chris Morris' Game Over column on CNN/Money.com.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: According to industry analysts, Sony is going to make one of its gaming platforms very affordable this holiday season. Unfortunately for next-gen gamers, they're not talking about the PlayStation 3.
Analysts believe that a price cut for the PSP is inevitable sometime later this year, reports CNN/Money. The PSP's current suggested retail price is $199, but American Technology Research's P.J. McNealy believes the handheld's price will fall to $149.
"There is a price cut coming in the second half of the year," McNealy told CNN. "[The PSP] has lost momentum. Nintendo has had a great run since it launched the DS Lite and Sony needs to regain some ground."
Besides the need to compete with Nintendo's DS Lite this holiday season, McNealy points toward Sony "apparently stockpiling finished gaming hardware" as a sign that a price cut is imminent. The price drop could also be tied into a game's launch, such as October's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the follow up to one of the PSP's biggest hits.
The PSP's price was dropped from $249 to $199 in March, and another price drop this holiday could help Sony make a dent in Nintendo's DS Lite momentum. CNN/Money puts the PSP at 20 million units shipped worldwide, while the DS, in large part thanks to the release of the redesigned DS Lite, has sold 21 million units. The DS Lite currently retails for $129.
Looking at the hard evidence for a price drop doesn't really reveal much. Sony is likely to stockpile hardware during every holiday season, and it's hard to say a price drop is a done deal with only one analyst on record saying that it's going to happen. Does it make sense? Yes. Is it going to happen? We're not sure.
When asked for comment, a representative from Sony would only say that the company has not announced any price cut, and would not comment on rumors and speculation.
Bogus or not bogus?: Too close to call on this one. Without a compelling argument, we're abstaining.
Source: The official Web site for the Xbox 360 wing of Official Xbox Magazine.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: To next-gen gamers, "Humpday" is now more than just the middle of the work week and Lost reruns. Wednesdays are the days new Xbox Live Arcade games are released as part of the very appropriately titled Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays program, which kicked off with Frogger on July 12. Microsoft announced the schedule for the programs first five weeks, which comes to a conclusion this week.
Fans of old-school classics and indie games have been kept in suspense about what's on tap after this Wednesday, but a report from the UK Web site for Xbox 360 - The Official Xbox Magazine claims to know the XBLA release schedule through the first week of September.
Following the previously announced Pac-Man this week, OXM expects Texas Hold 'Em on August 16, Time Pilot on August 23, Scramble on August 30, and Lumines Live! on September 6. The schedule did not mention any prices for any of the games.
Cross-checking the release dates with the respective games' Web sites on Xbox.com reveals nothing, as there are no listings for Time Pilot or Scramble and no clear release dates for the other games (except for Lumines Live! which shows an incorrect July 2006 date).
GameSpot contacted Microsoft directly to get the lowdown and got this response: "We have yet to announce the upcoming release schedule, and that is all just rumors and speculation." The rep then went on to say that a correct schedule would be released in the coming weeks.
Bogus or not bogus?: Straight from Microsoft's mouth...Bogus. Though the Pac-Man part is spot on.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Gamers slurping down Big Gulps, Big Bites, or other economy-sized junk food may have noticed something peculiar at their local 7-11. The convenience chain is giving away 711 Nintendo Wiis as part of a promotion with its Slurpee frozen drinks.
Checking out the contest's official rules and regulations is likely to induce gamers to do their own big gulp. In the list of prizes and their values, the site shows the Wii as having an ARV (approximate retail value) of $299.99, or CA$399.99.
"November 1, 2006 through January 31, 2007 the following Instant Prizes will be available to be won: (711) Nintendo Wii, ARV: $299.99 USD ($399.99 CDN) each..."
Nintendo hasn't yet released an official price for the system, but it has gone on record as saying the system would sell for less than $250. In dealing with a contest such as this, it would seem that a committed partnership would be intact, and the lines of communication would be open. To grossly misquote a price by 20 percent seems a bit odd.
Infendo goes on to speculate that the Wii that 7-11 is giving away may actually be a package deal, bundled with a game. While that makes sense, it's unlikely. Contest rules and regulations have to be airtight, with prizes and rules written out plainly.
The other prizes in the contest appear to be spot-on with their "approximate retail value," including the 512MB iPod Shuffle at $69. Could Nintendo be planning on raising the price of the system now that it appears to be a hot-ticket item? Unlikely. The sub-$250 price announcement was made after E3, when the Wii's buzz swelled into mainstream media. Putting the console at just under $300 would cause an uproar among gamers.
It's almost certain that the Wii will come in under $250, lest Nintendo would feel the wrath of bitter consumers. The likely scenario can be summed up by a line from the chain-gang supervisor in Cool Hand Luke. "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Nintendo may have just suffered a case of brain freeze and didn't get the proper information to 7-11's corporate office.
Attempts to reach Nintendo for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: A Wii for $299? Likely bogus--7-11 is probably just inflating the total ARV of the contest's prizes.
Source: What appears to be a Ubisoft press release posted on French site Jeuxpo.com.
The official story: US Ubisoft reps directed inquires to the company's French representatives, who had not returned GameSpot's requests for comment (and were likely asleep, given the transatlantic time difference) as of press time. Attempts to contact Jeuxpo.com editors were also unsuccessful.
What we heard: Earlier today, a press release from Ubisoft went out to herald the company's commitment to releasing seven launch titles on the Nintendo Wii. However, it appears that not everyone received the same release.
French site Jeuxpo.com has posted a version of the press release en francais that mentions that a Prince of Persia game will be released for the Wii in March 2007. The Jeuxpo release is identical to the one on Ubisoft's official French-language Web site, with the exception of the Prince of Persia line in question. Instead of stating that the Prince of Persia franchise will appear on the Wii, it merely says that Ubisoft has other, unnamed games in development for the system. That's basically the same line used in the English-language release as well.
So what happened? The more paranoid theory is that Jeuxpo decided to fabricate mention of a Prince of Persia Wii game and slipped it into a Ubisoft press release. The other is that the information actually came from Ubi in an early draft of the release, which was revised at the last minute before hitting newswires.
Of the two, the latter scenario seems more plausible. Game-news outlets often get information under embargo about news that game companies will announce soon. The site agrees not to publish the news early so it can get the information and arrange to have its coverage ready to go when said embargo breaks. Sometimes the information is delivered in the form of press releases that aren't quite final and wind up being revised before the news is actually released. So it appears that Ubisoft released--and then retracted--the version of the announcement on Jeuxpo's site, or Jeuxpo had access to a copy that never was approved for release.
However, even if the news did come from Ubisoft, that doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate. The announcement and release date could have been omitted because the game's development status is in limbo. It seems unlikely that the existence of the game itself would be inaccurate, but its release date could very well be up in the air at the moment, enough so that the publisher wouldn't want to commit to a March launch.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though Jeuxpo's not a major game-news outlet, it seems unlikely that it would forge a press release, so this appears to be not bogus.
The official story: Rockstar Games had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: Last month, Rockstar Games released the official box art for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, the second game from the blockbuster franchise to arrive on the PSP. The cover appeared to show that several characters from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, including Cuban gangster Umberto Robina and badass biker Mitch Baker, would return in the new game, which appeared to be a prequel.
This week, some very convincing-looking scans attributed to the Australian edition of GamePro surfaced--and revealed new details about Vice City Stories. According to the scans, the game will be set in 1984, two years before the events of the PlayStation 2 classic Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Players will step into the loafers of Vic Vance, the long-lost brother of Vice City criminal Lance Vance (pictured)--the brother he would not stop talking about in his conversations with game protagonist Tommy Vercetti.
Bigger and badder than his sibling, who was voiced by former Miami Vice star and onetime television psychic Philip Michael Thomas, Vic is a 28-year-old US marine taking some R&R in Vice City on his way to his posting at the now-infamous Guantanamo military base in Cuba. Before he ships out, though, the young jarhead gets mired in the town's underworld. The scans outline several missions, including a speedboat pursuit of an informer and a series of stunts performed on a jet ski, the first time the watercraft has appeared in any GTA game.
Besides having access to a garage of new vehicles, Vance will also be able to access an arsenal of new weapons. According to the scans, Rockstar also promised the game will have graphics superior to the first PSP game in the series, Liberty City Stories. Reportedly, it will boast twice the draw distance of PS2 Vice City, allowing players to see even father down the road when they're being chased by the VCPD.
Speaking of car chases, VCS also reportedly implements a new physics system that allows for more-realistic vehicle movement. It will also introduce swimming into the game--a much-needed skill after jet ski missions go awry--and allow for entry into building interiors with no loading times. The game will also sport a mix of old and new: Its landscape will be slightly different, with some buildings from Vice City being only half-built, and will bring back the classic radio stations from Vice City, presumably with new tracks reflective of its earlier time period.
Bogus or not bogus?: Although Rockstar has neither confirmed nor denied their authenticity, the scans appear to be not bogus.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Could it really be two whole months since the last worthwhile Wii rumor? The drought is apparently over, as two rumor-licious Wii tidbits are out and about.
The first comes by way of Nintendo Now, a Web site dedicated to Nintendo...now. Some of the site's authors milled about Nintendo's booth at the recent San Diego Comic-Con, and spoke to several people at the company's setup. One unnamed source dropped the bomb that there was "a strong possibility" that Nintendo would drop its own bombs at the Leipzig Game Convention, which takes place in Germany in late August.
With the Wii still fairly well veiled and launching sometime in Q4 this year, it's obvious that there are still plenty of details to be unleashed upon Nintendo's Wii-thirsty fans. The Leipzig Game Convention and September's Tokyo Game Show appear to be the obvious choices to pull back the curtain, so the likelihood of some news coming out of both shows isn't exactly a revelation, and is all but certain.
As far as a firm release date and pricing go, that will likely be held off until after Leipzig, as Nintendo brass have said that those bits of info will be disclosed in September.
The source also told Nintendo Now "definitively" that the company will hold its own show to demo the Wii, an idea that game blog Kotaku also picked up on. Kotaku's sources say the Wii will be the centerpiece of a cross-country tour to show off the console to the masses, with the idea being that hands-on time with the Wii will convince potential buyers to part with their cash and pick up the system.
As far as cross-country tours go, Nintendo has announced the Fusion Tour, which will "include a sneak peek at the Wii console" and feature some musical acts. However, the extent of the sneaking and peeking at the system (hands-on? Tech demos?) haven't been disclosed. A Nintendo rep would only say, "We haven't announced specific details yet but hope to in the weeks ahead."
Nintendo's marketing strategy with its new products has been "playing is believing,"--that is, give it a shot and you'll like it. At this year's Game Developers Conference, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told a tale about how the company, as an assignment, gave copies of Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day to employees and had them show the game to friends and family members in order to drum up interest. The idea worked, and Iwata attempted to replicate that by giving attendees of the Nintendo GDC press conference their own copies of the game, with instructions to let others try it out.
Hands-on time with the Wii at E3 was particularly successful, and personal demos of the console seem to fit into Nintendo's strategy. Expect the Wii to be shaking hands and kissing babies all across the country later this year--however, it's unlikely it will be the musically focused Fusion Tour.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though nothing is official, this appears to be two scoops of not bogus.
Source: See below.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Few things generate as much interest as a hot bowl of steaming Halo gossip. Small wonder, then, that ye olde Internet was abuzz this week with two big rumors regarding the next project from the sci-fi shooter's developer.
First up is a post on the blog of Eric Nylund, author of the Halo novels Fall of Reach and First Strike. Though the message was posted on July 11, it fell below most people's radar...until a few days ago. That's when thousands of gamers stood up and took notice of the tantalizing clues Nylund had dropped--clues about a major new franchise coming from Microsoft Game Studios.
After talking a bit about his current project, the eagerly anticipated Gears of War, Nylund talks about his forthcoming project. "What am I working on next? Well, if you took all the best parts of your favorite games, and smashed them together at light speed with your favorite movies and books, you'd get something close to this," he said. "It's not announced yet, but as soon as Microsoft does, I can at least tell you the title, genre, and what particular thing makes this game goose-bump worthy. So stay tuned."
Nylund's comments and his Halo connection helped resurrect rumors that Bungie is working on a project called "Forerunner," a free-roaming action game set in the Halo universe before the events of Halo. Further weight was thrown behind the theory by an article on the less-than-reputable-but-often-accurate UK gaming site SPOnG. The site's editors claim to have learned that Bungie will be announcing a new IP at X06, its forthcoming European Xbox expo.
"Speaking to a Microsoft source close to the management of the entire Xbox 360 project today, we were told that, 'As far as things stand, Halo 3 is the last game [in the series].' ... A new game from Bungie, not Halo 4, will be announced soon and pre-production has begun." According to SPOnG, "Another trilogy, likely a prequel, will be announced at some point in the next 12 months."
Were that not enough brain candy for Halo-heads for one week, gaming blog Kotaku jumped on the bandwagon with its own theory--that the "new IP" will actually be a next-gen version of the shooter that started it all for the studio. "After all, Halo is a sort of sequel to the entire Marathon trilogy...the Master Chief even wears a more advanced version of the same [Mjolnir power] armor," said the site. "A prequel bridging Halo and Marathon would really be quite within Bungie's modus operandi." [EDITOR'S NOTE: The Marathon series took place at the end of the 28th century--more than 200 years after Halo, which is set in the mid-26th century.]
So what did Microsoft have to say about this big ol' ruckus? You can probably guess. "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation," was the familiar refrain from the software behemoth's external PR representative.
[UPDATE] Now, it seems one of the above rumors might have been debunked. The proprietors of the fan site halo.bungie.org claim to have spoken with Nylund about the rumors his blog post helped generate. "Nylund's newest project has nothing whatsoever to do with Bungie," said the site in a Friday post. "That's straight from the horse's mouth (well, Nylund's, anyway - not really nice to call him a horse)."
However, as of press time, inquiries sent to Nylund directly by GameSpot had not been answered. But, although halo.bungie.org is "NOT affiliated with Bungie Studios," it has contacts inside the developer and a reputation for integrity on all things Halo-related--meaning Nylund's involvement now appears doubtful.
Bogus or not bogus?: See above.
Source: Another rumor-provoking preview over at UK game site Computer and Video Games.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: There weren't too many attendees at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo who even knew that Mercenaries 2 was at the show. That's because the game was only shown off behind closed doors to esteemed members of the press at the developer's booth. The demo was shown off on a PlayStation 3 dev kit, and Pandemic has not made any mention of other platforms.
Pandemic also never spoke of a publisher for the game. Mercenaries was published by LucasArts in the US and by Activision in Europe. However, the developer joined forces with BioWare and Elevation Partners, a venture-capital firm, late last year and formed BioWare/Pandemic, which frees up the two indie studios to take control of the creative, while Elevation provides the cash. With financial backing from Elevation, it isn't even clear whether Pandemic will need much help from a publisher.
Though the developer has been quiet on many of the game's details, some of Pandemic's secrets may have been revealed today. CVG has posted a preview of an Xbox 360 version of the game and has listed the game's publisher as Activision.
Mercenaries 2 on the Xbox 360 wouldn't really be too surprising, as the original Mercenaries was released on both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. When Merc 2 was first announced, Pandemic said it was merely headed to "next-gen consoles," further opening up the possibility that a multiplatform release is in the works. CVG admits that a 360 version hasn't been announced but says it has it "on very good authority that it will be Xbox 360 bound..."
As for the game's publisher, it appears that CVG isn't even sure about its own information. In the first paragraph of the preview, CVG says, "Pandemic haven't [sic] even signed a publisher yet, but we can tell you that it won't be LucasArts/Activision again."
When asked for comment, a Pandemic rep would only say that no publisher has been announced, and only a PlayStation 3 version has been confirmed. The rep was also quick to point out that the screenshots in the preview were from the PS3 version.
The whole platform dispute resembles the confusion surrounding another announced game for the PS3--Assassin's Creed--right down to the CVG exposé. So why would Pandemic wait to announce an Xbox 360 version? One possibility is that Sony may be trying to wrangle Mercenaries 2 as an exclusive, and the two companies may be in negotiations. The game may also be a timed exclusive, such as how the Grand Theft Auto games were for the PlayStation 2.
As far as Activision signing on to publish, it looks as though it may just be a database error on CVG's part, particularly since the body of the preview seems to contradict that info. But while an Activision rep had not responded to requests for comment as of press time, a LucasArts spokesperson made it sound like his company is having zero involvement with the game. "We have the utmost respect and appreciation for Pandemic and their new endeavor with Elevation," the spokesperson told GameSpot. "Mercenaries is a great franchise, and we wish them continued success with it."
Bogus or not bogus?: Headed to the Xbox 360? Probably not bogus. Activision publishing? That's less clear. But one thing's for certain: Many publishers would love to have Mercenaries 2 in their portfolio.
Source: An article on Digitimes.com, citing Microsoft manufacturing partners in Taiwan.
The official story: Microsoft rep--"We have nothing to announce at this time."
What we heard: Console pricing has been a big topic in the next-gen system wars. Those who gasped when Microsoft revealed that its premium Xbox 360 would retail for $399 probably swallowed their tongues when Sony announced its high-end PlayStation 3 would sell for $599. Nintendo's Wii, on the other hand, is targeting a price under $250.
Microsoft has found itself conveniently in the middle of the pack price-wise, offering better graphics and power than the cheaper Wii, and fewer bells and whistles (such as a Blu-ray drive) than the pricier PS3. However, with gamers all over the world still undecided about which console to take home for the holidays, Microsoft may want to sweeten the deal.
Taiwanese tech site Digitimes.com is reporting that Microsoft may cut the price of the Xbox 360's premium pack by $100, bringing it down to $299. The article cites Taiwanese OEM component makers, companies that are making parts for the Xbox 360, which claim to have negotiated deals with Microsoft to reduce production costs by as much as 20 percent. The cut in costs is attributed to increased production, decreasing rate of defective parts, and general price deflation of raw materials.
The purpose and timing of the alleged price cut is obvious--with Sony taking a lashing of criticism because of its $599 PS3 price point, Microsoft would love to turn up the heat on its main rival. Microsoft didn't launch the 360 a year early to come in second or third place again, and with its willingness to lose boatloads of cash to be the winner in the long run, a price cut could be the extra boost the 360 needs to come out on top.
Digitimes' source also says the price cut is in preparation for a $399 Xbox 360 premium bundle with an external HD-DVD drive, in an attempt to blunt Sony's Blu-ray drive-equipped PS3. At E3, Microsoft announced that the drive would be available this holiday season (but didn't announce a price), which would line up perfectly for a holiday bundle.
Don't run out and buy Van Helsing on HD-DVD just yet. Microsoft has previously said that no price drop on its console is planned this year, and it may tough out this holiday season with its previous price points intact. Another possibility is that Microsoft will announce some form of bundle with throw-ins, like the rumored $399 Project Gotham Racing 3 bundle, which allegedly includes the premium 360, PGR3, some Xbox Live Marketplace points, and a three-month Xbox Live account.
Bogus or not bogus?: Being the high-def film junkies we are, we're hoping it's not bogus. Unfortunately, the PGR3 bundle seems like a more likely scenario. Bogus.
Source: A CVG preview of the game...on the Xbox 360!
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Hey did you hear? Assassin's Creed may be coming to the Xbox 360! Ubisoft's medieval stealth game has been the subject of one of the hottest rumors of the year, a rumor that refuses to die or be debunked.
Assassin's Creed was officially announced at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo for the PlayStation 3. Though a press release never mentioned the word "exclusively," it sure did its best not to mention the Xbox 360. However, the game, previously known as Project Assassin, was first revealed as an Xbox 360 game at X05--Microsoft's Xbox-centric event.
Further doubt that the game was a PS3 exclusive was cast when some Web sites claimed the E3 demo was running on an Xbox 360 dev kit, and earlier this month, Internet reports stated that an Ubi employee spilled the beans at the Interactive Digital Entertainment Festival in France.
The latest good news for those in the Microsoft camp comes via the Web site for Computer and Video Games, which has posted a preview for the game on the Xbox 360--which no doubt peeved the French game publisher. Though Ubisoft has never announced that an Xbox 360 version is in the works, CVG appears to be accepting it as fact. To give the preview even more credence, the article is branded with the Official Xbox Magazine logo.
When asked for comment on the rumored Xbox 360 version, Ubisoft said something awfully familiar. "Assassin's Creed is coming to the PS3. No other announcements have been made."
So what gives? Ubisoft and Sony may have a deal for a timed exclusive, much like they had with the Grand Theft Auto series on the PlayStation 2. Another more nefarious possibility is that a deal may have been worked out so the game stirs enough interest in the PS3 if gamers believe it will only be available for that platform. And of course, there's the possibility that no one wants to believe (except hardcore Sony fanboys)--it is a PS3 exclusive game.
Bogus or not bogus?: We've said it before and we'll say it again...we'd be utterly flabbergasted if it didn't make it to the Xbox 360...not bogus!
Source: Several product listings on major game retail and rental Web sites (see below).
The official story: "We can't comment at this time."--Midway rep.
What we heard: Though they may now hold respectable jobs and/or be pillars of the community, many gamers in their late 20s and early 30s grew up dreaming of laying waste to major metropolitan centers. These youthful fantasies came courtesy of Rampage, the Midway Games arcade classic that put players in the oversized paws of one of three giant monsters: the King Kong-esque ape George, the Godzilla-esque reptile Lizze, and the oversized werewolf Ralph. Its gameplay comprised climbing skyscrapers, smashing foundations, crushing military vehicles and eating any hapless humans which cross said monsters' path.
The title was a solid hit in arcades from its 1986 introduction well until the 1990s and beyond--a functional unit attracted crowds in San Francisco's North Beach district until it died in 2004. However, console versions of the franchise have had a rather spotty record. Rampage World Tour (PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy Color) garnered mediocre reviews when it hit stories in 1997 and 1998, as did Rampage 2: Universal Tour (PlayStation, N64, and GBC) in 1999, Rampage Through Time (PS), and Rampage Puzzle Attack (GBA) in 2001.
Besides a poorly received 2005 GBA port of the original game, the Rampage franchise lay fallow until this April, when Midway released Rampage: Total Destruction for the GameCube and PlayStation 2. Though the game also garnered a lukewarm response from reviewers, it now appears the revamped version of the monster mash will be making its way to next-generation consoles--and a certain popular handheld.
According to retail-posting product listings on CD Universe and GameFly, Rampage: Total Destruction is coming to the Nintendo Wii. Though neither listing had any details on the game, it is almost certain that it would take advantage of the next-generation console's motion-sensing controller, which would in turn transform adults pushing 34 into stomping, jabbering Gorgo wannabes in their living rooms. For those who would prefer to crush buildings on the go, GameFly is also listing Rampage: Total Destruction as coming to the Nintendo DS, Nintendo's dual-screen handheld.
So will Rampage tear it up on Nintendo's latest gadgets by year's end? Though Midway wouldn't comment, a source close to the publisher strongly hinted that both versions would be announced shortly. "It won't be long now, " he or she said, essentially confirming that Midway, having already announced Ant Bully for the next-gen console, is joining the third-party rush to jump on the Wii-wagon by year's end.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.
Source: The ever-popular gaming blog Kotaku.
The official story: Calls left with Clinton's press office had not been returned as of press time.
What we heard: It's no secret that Hilary Clinton is considering a presidential bid in 2008. It's also no secret that the junior Senator from New York has been trying to scrape off the "liberal" label conservatives have slapped onto her by adopting a center-right stance on a variety of issues, including the war in Iraq.
Clinton also tried to up her family-values cred with a hard-line response to the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "Hot Coffee" scandal. In the wake of the game being pulled from store shelves after sex minigames were discovered buried in its code, the senator called for federal legislation that would make selling M- or AO-rated games to minors a federal crime. Later, she joined fellow senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in calling for the Centers for Disease Control to investigate the "impact of electronic media use" on minors.
But while the Federal Trade Commission has formally ended its investigation into San Andreas publisher Take-Two Interactive, rumor has it that Clinton isn't done taking potshots at gaming. Today, Kotaku editor Brian D. Crecente obtained an e-mail sent out by Clinton's office looking for "volunteers for a new anti-violence in video games initiative."
By "volunteers," Clinton apparently means individuals willing to be a "concerned parent" at a press conference. Naturally, the parents will be "concerned" about the hazards games present to their children. According to Kotaku, they should also be willing to voice their concerns to the press to help sway public opinion in favor of a new measure Clinton reportedly wants to introduce--a federal game tax akin to taxes states levy on cigarettes. Proceeds from the tax would fund a program for troubled minors.
So is the report legit? GameSpot spoke with Crecente, who, unlike o-so-many blog proprietors, is a professional, legitimate journalist working for the Rocky Mountain News. Though he would not share the e-mail for fear of revealing his source, he swore it was "very reliable."
But even without concrete proof, one thing is abundantly clear: Clinton is waging a public crusade against games. At a recent speech in front of the Kaiser Family Foundation, she accused modern society of performing a "massive experiment" on millions of children by exposing them to games, electronic media, and omnipresent advertising. "At the rate that technology is advancing, people will be implanting chips in our children to advertise directly into their brains and tell them what kind of products to buy," Clinton warned, according to the New York Daily News.
Bogus or not bogus?: Given Crecente's reputation, this rumor is more credible than most. Unfortunately, that means gamers can expect their favorite pastime to become a political punching bag when the 2008 presidential campaign heats up next year.
Source: Game blog GamerAndy.com, citing a source "in the know."
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Currently, gamers who want to live out the dream of being a heavy metal god have to possess long, feathered hair, a denim or leather jacket, various tattoos, and a PlayStation 2. That's because Red Octane's Guitar Hero has been exclusive to Sony's current-gen console. Even the game's sequel, due in stores this November, is slated only to play on the PS2.
If a report from GamerAndy.com is to believed, however, Xbox 360 owners will soon be shreddin' it as well. Citing a source "in the know," the blog claims that Guitar Hero II is also in the works for the Microsoft's next-generation console. The site offers no other evidence that the game is in development.
Even with such little proof, the prospect of Guitar Hero II coming to the Xbox 360 is almost as predictable as a rock star's hotel bill. At this year's E3, Activision announced that it purchased the game's publisher, RedOctane. Activision director Ron Doornik wasn't too subtle about the direction the company wanted to take the franchise.
"The success we are seeing today is a strong indicator that Guitar Hero and the many potential extensions, new platform exploitations and international versions appear to be somewhat transition proof, as consumers are responding to this product on current-generation platforms in a manner that defies traditional late-cycle behavior," Doornik said. "We think the online capabilities of the next-generation platforms offer new and well differentiated opportunities to create additional revenues from downloadable music, which today represents one of the most popular downloadable content categories."
The Xbox 360 certainly qualifies as a next-generation platform with online capabilities, and frankly, the idea of a wireless Guitar Hero controller sounds tooooootally raaaaad. Plus, as addictive as Guitar Hero is, downloadable songs over Xbox Live Marketplace would rake in huge amounts of dough.
When asked for comment, a representative from RedOctane could not confirm that an Xbox 360 version was in the works, but did manage to throw in a plug for the PS2 version.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not a big surprise here, and likely not bogus. Start practicing those scales now. But why didn't the source mention anything about a Wii or PlayStation 3 version?
Source: A promotional card (pictured) enclosed inside each retail copy of Prey.
What we heard: After years of anticipation, Prey finally hit store shelves last week. The game began development at 3D Realms before being canceled in 1997, when the developer decided to focus its efforts on the still-unreleased Duke Nukem Forever. Then, in 2005, 3D Realms head George Broussard revealed that developer Human Head and publisher 2K Games had resurrected the title and would bring it to both the PC and the Xbox 360.
Now that Prey has been released to mostly positive reviews, the hype surrounding the title has died down. However, rumors continue to swirl around Prey, thanks to a promotional flyer included in both versions of the game.
Under the headline "mystery deal," the black and white flyer promotes the album Prey: The Soundtracks and urges visitors to go to the URL www.directsong.com/preymystery. Once there, they must enter the following "secret code": "prymvyscrnplycmng2007".
Given Prey's cinematic qualities and compelling--if short--story, many gamers believed the secret code contained the following secret message: "Prey movie screenplay coming 2007." However, the only things the code unlocks are discounted copies of volumes one and two of the Prey soundtrack, which includes rock-pop ditties "inspired" by the game.
But while Prey has the potential to make a rollicking film--if Uwe Boll has nothing to do with it, anyway--there's no evidence any such project is in the offing. Neither 2K Games nor 3D Realms would respond to requests for comment, leaving this rumor smack-dab in the middle of speculation town--for now.
Bogus or not bogus?: Too little information to make a determination one way or the other. [Insert dated "You got to Prey just to make it today" MC Hammer joke here.]
Source: ClubSkill.com yesterday, everyone and their mother today.
The official story: Capcom--no. Microsoft--no comment. German ratings board--nein available for comment.
What we heard: Those censors are at it again. The game in question this time is Dead Rising, which sees players hacking up ex-humans (zombies) in all sorts of ways. The game has raised the red flag in Germany, where its ratings board, the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), has denied Dead Rising a rating because of its violent content.
And that's where the confusion begins. Several Web sites are reporting that game has been outright banned in Germany, which isn't entirely correct, according to Capcom.
"According to Capcom Germany, the game has not been banned in Germany. The game ships on September 8," a Capcom rep told GameSpot.
A quick sifting through German law reveals that Capcom is technically right--but don't expect to see Dead Rising in the top 10 best-seller lists in the country. In order for a game to be on store shelves and sold to a wide audience, the German government requires that a USK rating must be provided. However, games without a USK mark may still be bought and sold by request of adults, though the titles in question may not be advertised. The actual transaction between supplier and buyer must also be performed in person to ensure the questionable material does not fall into the hands of a minor; games and other media lacking a USK mark may not be delivered through the mail. (By contrast, no law requires US games to have an ESRB rating, but most stores will not carry unrated games voluntarily.)
When asked about the game's status with the USK, both Capcom and Microsoft had similar answers--neither were able to provide comment.
Dead Rising could still be toned down to appease regional officials and get the German equivalent of an M-for-Mature rating. This has occurred in the past, most notably with the PC game Carmageddon. Ironically, the German release of the vehicular combat game turned the human pedestrians/targets into zombies, a move deemed more acceptable.
Bogus or not bogus?: An outright ban is bogus. However, like the zombies in Dead Rising, this issue doesn't appear to be completely dead.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Sleek, stylish gadgets elicit "oohs" and "aahs" from consumers and make them part with their hard-earned money, not only because of what they can do, but how they look doing it. This year's must-have toy is the redesigned DS Lite, which is basically the bulkier DS after the electronics equivalent of a tummy tuck.
Unfortunately, much like the Botox injected into the various flaps of skin of Hollywood celebs, some of the cosmetics of the DS Lite appear to not be holding up too well over time. According to several Internet-savvy DS Lite owners, the left hinge that connects the unit's two screens is prone to cracking.
Photographic evidence of the small crack, which is a few centimeters in length, has turned up on several Internet sites, with users explaining that their dual-screened darlings just aren't what they used to be. It should be noted that the crack is merely aesthetic and does not affect the unit or gameplay.
Of course it's the loudest voices that are heard on the Internet, and they usually belong to those with gripes, so the extent of the crack epidemic isn't clear. A quick poll of DS Lite-owning GameSpot employees yielded no such broken units, but reports of more cracks are popping up on message boards.
As to what causes the alleged cracks, handheld abuse has been ruled out by forum users. Several gamers with pristine DS Lites have reported dropping their units multiple times with no damages, and several who have become the victim of the crackage report that they have treated their DS Lites like a newborn baby.
One theory is that opening the handheld all the way at a full 180 degrees puts extra pressure on the hinge, causing the plastic to crack. A brave GameSpot editor opened his DS Lite all the way, and the hinge remained intact, and while he said he has done it before, he admits that it doesn't happen too often.
GameSpot contacted Nintendo customer support, who explained that this malady doesn't seem to be what the company calls a "known issue" and appears to affect less than 1 percent of DS Lites. However, unless the broken hinge impairs the opening and closing of the clamshell portable or the overall stability of the top screen, it does not fall under warranty. A damaged unit could be fixed for $50, down from the normal rate of $75.
Gamers are no strangers to defective gadgets, with a few consoles released in the past few years also experiencing some problems. After the Xbox 360 was released, many gamers were stopped by red lights on the "ring of light," but Microsoft announced that only 3 percent of units were broken, less than the average rate for newly released electronic gadgets. The PlayStation Portable was stricken by the "dead pixel syndrome" on its LCD screens, and consumers were given the option to exchange units still under warranty.
Though Nintendo customer support had plenty to say on the matter, the rest of the company hasn't been so loose-lipped. Attempts to reach Nintendo PR for comment on the matter were unsuccessful as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: There's plenty of photographic evidence and Internet testimonials, so not bogus that it has happened. However, there's still not enough evidence to call this an epidemic--yet.
Source: A post over at the garden of gaming knowledge known as the Gaming-Age Forums.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Gamers love price drops--more go for less dough. With competition heating up in the console race, cutting the retail price of a system could mean the difference between first place and worst place. The price cut is a common tactic companies use to get a leg up on the competition, and it sometimes results in lower prices across the board.
However, those that are waiting for a price drop on the Xbox 360 will probably keep on waiting beyond this fall, as a Microsoft rep confirmed that the console would remain at its current $299 and $399 price points.
However, he never said anything about not getting more for your money. Over on the Gaming-Age forums, one poster who goes by the handle "Dr_Cogent" claims that a new Xbox 360 bundle with about $85 of throw-ins will go on sale beginning August 1 for just $399.
Allegedly, the new bundle will come with an Xbox 360, Project Gotham Racing 3 ($50 value), 1250 Xbox Live Marketplace points (just over $15), and a three-month Xbox Live Gold subscription card ($20 value). The post doesn't specify which Xbox the bundle will contain, but presumably it would be the 20GB hard-drive-equipped, $399 premium model.
The post also says that the original Xbox has been discontinued, but did not offer any evidence or reason.
The validity of the good Dr.'s source does leave a lot to be desired. Apparently a friend who is a Gaming-Age regular and works "for a large distributor" got the information, and asked Dr_Cogent to post the news for the community.
When asked for comment, a Microsoft rep would only say, "We don't provide details on our console manufacturing plans."
Even though the post reeks of eau du bogus, there are several reasons why this would make sense. Project Gotham Racing 3 was Microsoft's most well-received launch title, and because it's more than seven months old, it's losing value on store shelves. The game is also a part of a thriving online community, and is constantly rolling out downloadable packs for a price. Remember--this was the game that Microsoft used to pimp out its idea of microtransactions.
Adding 1250 Marketplace points and a three-month Xbox Live subscription gives new Xbox 360 adopters every reason to try out Marketplace, and could possibly convert some gamers into online shopaholics.
While this wouldn't be a true price drop, it is the next best thing and would be a brilliant move on Microsoft's part. And if it is bogus, Bill Gates should think about hiring Dr_Cogent into his marketing team--that is if Dr_Cogent isn't already a paid viral marketer.
Bogus or not bogus?: Based on lack of any evidence, we're obligated to lean toward bogus, but our fingers are crossed for not bogus.
The official stories: Attempts to elicit comment from LucasArts, Burton's agent, and Microsoft were unsuccessful as of press time.
What we heard: This week saw a couple of crazy rumors spring from the crossroads of Hollywood and games. First up was word that the sultan of strange himself, director Tim Burton, is planning to direct a film version of LucasArts' beloved 1998 PC game Grim Fandango. The string of rumors tracked back to what appeared to be a typo-packed interview on the obscure film blog The Movie Center.
"Well, I'm currently woerking (sic) on Sweeny Todd (sic), which will be released in mid-2007," read the quote attributed to Burton. "After that, I'm gonna start working on a new script that was sent to me recently: Grim Fandango. It sort of follows the style of The nightmare before Christmas (sic) and Corpse Bride. It's about a surreal land of the dead, some sort of purgatory where everyone goes when they die. In that place, dead people have to make a four-year transition before they can rest in peace for all the eternity. I still don't know when we're going to start filming this, though."
Given that "Burton-esque" was an adjective often used to describe Grim Fandango when it came out, the quote seemed confirmation of a match made in nerd heaven. The problem is, the "interview" was actually a collection of quotes lifted from other press outlets. While several of the early quotes could be traced to this About.com interview with Burton, several of the others--including the Grim Fandango quote--remain of indeterminate origin and are therefore unverifiable.
Meanwhile, a single line on Dark Horizons sent out waves that traveled far beyond its Antipodean origin. In its Tuesday "News Bites" column, the Australian film site ran the following one-sentence note: "Latest rumors have Denzel Washington as the favorite for Master Chief."
While such throwaway lines could be pulled out of thin air, this one does have some basis in fact. In June, Washington did indeed fly to New Zealand, according to an article in the June 30 edition of New Zealand newspaper The Dominion Post. "Oscar-winner Denzel Washington has confirmed he visited Wellington to see director Peter Jackson and the Hollywood heavyweights will collaborate on a new film project," said the paper.
However, Washington told reporters at the Wellington, New Zealand, airport that the meeting was about an unnamed project--that would put him behind the camera. "Speaking at the check-in counter, Washington said he would direct the movie, which he hoped would be released in two years. Jackson would provide the special effects."
Given that Jackson is executive-producing the Halo movie, it's easy to see how Washington's visit could start tongues a-waggin'. However, if Halo is going to stay true to the well-reviewed script written by Alex Garland, it's unlikely the Oscar-winner and sex symbol would play the Master Chief. (WARNING: script review contains adult language and spoilers.) Why? Because the screenplay, which is partially based on the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach, stays true to the spirit of the games by never revealing the Chief's face. It's hard to believe that Washington would agree to spend an entire shoot inside the Master Chief's power armor, and his unaltered voice lacks the supersoldier's clipped military gravitas. However, Washington easily has the chops and physique to play the MC's comrade in arms, Sergeant Johnson...
Bogus or not bogus?: Burton directing Grim Fandango? Not enough to go on. Washington as the Master Chief? Highly unlikely.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: The work week got off to a sizzling start on Monday when a report from the Seattle Times stated that Microsoft's rumored portable, sometimes referred to as the xPod or Xboy because of its music and gaming potential, was in fact a line of portables. Citing a source, the author of the article said that the "Argo" would feature Wi-Fi capability and compete in the same market with the DS and PlayStation Portable.
Microsoft obviously would not cop to the news and declined to comment entirely.
But that wasn't all that sprang forth from the wealth of knowledge from sources. Engadget talked to its spies and found out that Argo was the name of the project, which is under the watchful eye of none other than J Allard, the former face of the Xbox. The sources also revealed that the gadget would be dubbed "Zune."
However, even though Allard is overseeing the project, the Zune looks like it will be mostly music-centric--for now, at least. The Wi-Fi capability is in place primarily for wireless song transfers, not multiplayer gaming. Gizmondo states that there will be some gaming however, just not anything like an on-the-go Xbox.
Of course even the iPod, which is rumored to be the target of Zune, has some minigames, such as a Breakout rip-off. The likely power of the Zune games? Think something like Palm-OS-based diversions, or even simple Xbox Live Arcade games.
Of course the Zune could also just be the first step toward something bigger. People are already speculating about Xbox 360 integration with the device, beginning with streaming audio, like the iPod currently does. But add a few buttons, a thumbstick, and a little more horsepower, and the Zune could soon be singing gamers' tunes.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that Microsoft's handheld is named Zune, and not bogus that it won't seriously game in its first incarnation.
Source: An article written around a blurry photo from an anonymous source on the Xbox-mod site Xbox Scene.
The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--a Microsoft spokesman.
What we heard: Over the weekend, Xbox Scene reported on possible plans from Microsoft to put a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) port into some future version of the Xbox 360 hardware. According to the article, a source "who wishes to remain anonymous" sent them a picture of an Xbox 360 motherboard with an HDMI port on it. Whoever the source is, he's apparently seen three such motherboards.
HDMI is a video/audio interface that allows high-def content to be displayed in uncompressed form over a single cable. It also supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP), an anti-piracy measure expected to be encoded into HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Those discs will also make use of Image Constraint Token (ICT) technology, which would artificially reduce the output resolution of any signal not sent over a secured connection (like HDMI). Basically, to get the best visuals out of an ICT-flagged disc, you need a compatible monitor or television, or the system will output a reduced-resolution image to your screen, no matter how high a resolution it could actually handle.
However, it bears mentioning that it is the content creator's decision whether or not to use ICT flags, regardless of format. Given that there are plenty of high-def TV sets that don't have a secure connection like HDMI, any company choosing to use the flags would exclude many consumers. It seems if these companies are smart, they won't use ICT flags in their products until HDTV penetration rates are way up and the average consumer is assumed to have compatible players and monitors.
The sticking point here is that Microsoft has already announced an HD-DVD playing add-on for the Xbox 360. So without an HDMI port on the system, how would owners of the 360 HD-DVD player make use of their new toy to watch truly high-definition content if content creators decide to make use of the ICT flag? It seems pretty natural that Microsoft would examine its options here and see what it takes (and costs) to get the 360 outputting signals through HDMI. That said, a sighting of three motherboards doesn't exactly portend an imminent worldwide launch of an HDMI-equipped Xbox 360.
The Xbox Scene photo is blurry, and the anonymous source leaves room for questions, but Microsoft is almost assuredly looking into the feasibility of adding an HDMI port to the 360. Otherwise, in a worst-case scenario where every major studio decides to release its HD-DVDs with ICT flags, how could Microsoft justify the purchase of an add-on that would give users almost no more functionality than the system's factory-standard DVD drive?
Bogus or not bogus?: Can't speak to that photo or source, but ultimately not bogus.