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Source: Hearsay from France's Interactive Digital Entertainment Festival, as reported on every single gaming site in the universe.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: If prerelease hype is anything to go on, then Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed is looking like a good bet to rule sales charts when it's released in 2007. The stealthy game has been drooled over since its showing at this year's E3, and fans aren't even sure what platforms it will be on.
The game has been confirmed as a PlayStation 3 game, but was announced as Project Assassin at the Xbox-centric X05 last year. Ubisoft has repeatedly said that the game is coming to the PS3 and no other announcements have been made, but others claimed that the game was running on a 360 dev kit at E3.
Further doubt of PS3 exclusivity was thrown into the mix this week when Web sites began reporting that Ubisoft confirmed at the Interactive Digital Entertainment Festival last week that the game would be coming to the Xbox 360 and PC. Which Web sites? It's not quite clear yet, though the rumor appears to have spawned on European-based Web sites.
For those of you who predicted that Ubisoft would deny any other platforms for Assassin's Creed, pat yourself on the back. A rep told GameSpot News: "Assassin’s Creed is coming to the PS3. No other announcements have been made."
As stated before, all signs point toward Assassin's Creed heading to other platforms. Officially, however, the game is a PS3 title.
Bogus or not bogus?: We've been through this before, and we're sticking with bogus that it's a PS3 exclusive. We would be shocked to find this not end up on the Xbox 360 or PC.
Source: America's leading sports magazine for the prepubescent athlete, Sports Illustrated for Kids.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: One of the hottest gaming scoops of the year may have been unearthed by the sports-magazine equivalent of Highlights for Children, Sports Illustrated for Kids. In a section of the magazine devoted to sports games, a side column sums up the forthcoming additions to the next-gen console family, the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.
Much of the info is watered-down talk of the systems, with the only description of the PS3 reading "Wireless controllers and revved-up graphics designed to work on high-definition TVs." There was no mention of its very adult price tag, and there was only a brief summary of the potential of the Wii's controller with sports games.
However, the big news that had kids freaking out like a Pixy Stix sugar rush was a note about the console's release date, which was one of Nintendo's closely guarded secrets. The magazine claims the console will release on November 6, 11 days before the PS3's confirmed release date (which was also mentioned in the magazine).
Nintendo has gone on record to say that the Wii would be released in Q4 of 2006, in time for the holiday season. The November 6 date seems to fall in line with conventional wisdom, and getting a head start on the PS3 is a logical move for the company.
Of course, Nintendo wouldn't let a magazine that sits on the rack near Teen Beat spoil an official announcement, and had this to say about the report: "The launch date for Wii cited in the current issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids is based on speculation on the part of the magazine, and is not based on information from Nintendo. We remain committed to launch the remarkable Wii console in the fourth quarter of 2006."
Though SI for Kids is aimed at the little brothers and sisters of the world, it's still a member of the Sports Illustrated family and is presumably held to similar journalistic standards. They didn't pull the date out of thin air, and misinformation would face the wrath of millions of Internet-savvy preteens wondering where their Wii was on November 6 (please keep jokes to yourself).
Bogus or not bogus?: Officially? Bogus. Unofficially? The release date had to come from somewhere, but we won't know the truth until later this year. What do you think?
Source: An article on PS3 Land reported that Track7 Games had canned the PlayStation 3 version of its Xbox 360 and PC adventure game, Theseis.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: The original article indicated that Track7 Games had contacted PS3 Land to say the game was axed, blaming the cancellation on the high cost of development for Sony's system. It even quoted Track7 managing director Vicky Valvanos as saying, "If Sony were to offer us assistance in producing a PS3 version, we would be more than happy to oblige!"
The news was repeated across the Internet by sites large and small--most of which didn't notice a PS3 version of Theseis was never actually announced. It did show up on retailer databases (as of this writing, EBgames still has a product page up for it), but Track7 apparently never acknowledged its existence.
In response to the PS3 Land article, Track7 Games posted that bit of information on its official Web site under the heading "Track7 Games responds to erroneous article."
"Track7games would like to clarify that we never cancelled something that did not exist in the first place," the notice read. "We plan to develop Theseis for PC and Xbox 360 in the near future. As for the PS3, we simply made a strategic decision to not move ahead because we deemed it not probable at this time."
PS3 Land has since updated its story to reflect Track7's denial. The site apologized for any confusion it caused, adding, "Track7 now claim that what they originally told us was a 'joke.'" Aside from that rather bizarre addendum, it's interesting that Track7 Games did not refute the quote from the original article. If the quote was fabricated in any way, the developer would almost certainly make note of that in its remark about the story.
Clearly, Track7 Games looked into the possibility of developing Theseis for the PS3, and retailers were expecting it. But the developer obviously didn't go very far down that road. One can argue semantics, but no matter who you believe, the end result is the same: a PS3 Theseis is currently not in the cards.
Bogus or not bogus?: Officially bogus, since the game was never announced in the first place. Unofficially ... who knows?
Source: Job postings on the site of Sony Europe recruiter Datascope.
The official story: "There has been no official announcement regarding these properties."--a Sony spokesman.
What we heard: One of Datascope's job listings, which were last updated earlier today, is looking to fill a lead designer position--and apparently as soon as possible given the all-caps "URGENT" beside the title. The task of whomever is hired for the role will be "to have a key role in realising future iterations of Wipeout on PSP and PS3," according to the site.
The Wipeout franchise has been taking a bit of a breather since Wipeout Pure launched alongside the PSP in 2004, so it seems about time for another installment in the futuristic racer series if Sony Europe wants to keep the franchise semi-fresh in consumer's minds. That said, it survived three years without a new iteration between Wipeout Fusion on the PlayStation 2 and its PSP debut, which has racked up more than a quarter million in sales to date, according to the industry-tracking NPD Group.
Further down the list is an assortment of positions for new PS3 and PSP "football" titles. Given that these are Sony Europe's job openings, it's a safe assumption the sport being discussed is soccer, not American-style pigskin. Now while the idea of a new PSP soccer game isn't going to raise many eyebrows--World Tour Soccer '06 on the PSP recently shipped, and an '07 version seems likely--the PS3 edition is a little more interesting.
Sony Europe's This is Football series for the PlayStation 2 rode the pine last year, leaving the market to be carved up by more established efforts from Konami and Electronic Arts, among others. However, if Sony were to once again develop a first-party soccer game for the living room, the PS3 would be an ideal place to give the series a fresh start.
Another interesting wrinkle is in the job listing for an Audio Group Lead Programmer. Although it states the new hire would work on a PS3 football game, knowledge of the PSP is listed as a bonus in the job description. It's entirely possible Sony would just have the programmer working on both the PS3 and the PSP soccer games at the same time, but this could also point to some kind of cross-platform functionality between the two systems.
Whether these games ever make it to market is still up in the air, but if Sony's actively looking for people to work on them, they're clearly in--or at least starting--development.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.
Source: An interview with Dragon Ball Z series producer Daisuke Uchiyama over at GameDaily.
The official story: Namco representatives had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: The GameDaily interview moves along a lot like any interview would for a number of paraphrased questions and answers before the issue of Soul Calibur is brought up. The writer mentions that Tekken and Soul Calibur publisher Namco has merged with Dragon Ball Z's Japanese publisher Bandai (Atari publishes the series in the US), and asks Uchiyama about the possibility of a future Dragon Ball Z game developed by one of the teams behind Namco's fighting franchises.
The article gives the producer's response: "Uchiyama laughed and said that ideally that would be the scenario, but by the time the merger was finalized a new Tekken (Tekken 6) and Soul Calibur (Soul Calibur IV confirmed!) were already in the works, so it was not possible."
Because it's a paraphrased response in an almost certainly translated interview, it's impossible to parse words here and see if there might have been some misunderstanding on either Uchiyama's part or the writer's. In any case, it just says that a new Soul Calibur was taking up the development team's time when the Bandai-Namco merger was finalized. Uchiyama doesn't appear to mention Soul Calibur IV by name, so the new game could be a PSP version of an existing Soul Calibur game, or maybe even a project that was already known about.
The Bandai-Namco merger was finalized in September. Soul Calibur III was released in October, so there's even a slight chance Uchiyama was referring to that game as the incomplete Soul Calibur project in question. However, that seems unlikely, given how close to completion the game already was.
However, the producer's comment also could have been in reference to the arcade version of Soul Calibur III, which wasn't released in Japan until April and included a number of tweaks to the game. In addition to a legend mode where created characters can become a boss character for others to fight against, the arcade version featured compatibility with a cell phone game called Mobile Conquest. The Soul Calibur team could well have been busy balancing the game and adding those extra features for a couple months, pushing the team's schedule out of sync with the Dragon Ball Z project's development.
It's entirely probable--perhaps even inevitable--that a Soul Calibur IV will be made sooner or later. And it's certainly possible that Uchiyama was in fact talking about Soul Calibur IV specifically when he explained why future Dragon Ball Z games wouldn't be developed by the same team. But given the article's own account of the interview, it seems premature to conclude that Uchiyama was talking about Soul Calibur IV.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Soul Calibur IV has been confirmed. Not bogus that it will happen eventually.
Source: The latest podcast from Stephen Glicker--aka Gaming Steve.
The official story: Microsoft directed all inquiries to Electronic Arts, which had not commented as of press time.
What we heard: Late yesterday, forums began to rumble with a rumor that irked many PC gamers. The posts--and subsequent rumors on game-news sites--claimed that the latest Gaming Steve podcast had official confirmation that Command & Conquer 3, the latest in the storied real-time strategy series, was coming to the Xbox 360.
If C&C 3 did come to the 360, it would be the franchise's first console game since 1999, when the original game was ported to the N64. That title was preceded by a quintet of other ports, including: Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Retaliation (PlayStation, 1998 ), Command & Conquer: Red Alert (PlayStation, 1997), Command & Conquer (PlayStation, 1997), and Command & Conquer (Saturn, 1996).
While those titles received mixed reviews, a 360 C&C 3 would have much more potential. The PC version of C&C 3 is being developed by EA's Los Angeles studio, which is currently working on the 360 version of its well-received PC RTS The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II. Many game journalists have praised the 360 BFMEII as a remarkably good port, including Glicker. Commenting about the game's quality, he said it will likely inspire other RTSes to come to the console. "Hopefully other people will do a real-time strategy game on the 360," said Glicker, who singled out THQ's Supreme Commander as a title ripe for porting.
Glicker then went on to predict that C&C 3 will also find its way to Microsoft's next-gen console. "I know for a fact that they are doing this because these are the same guys, the same team who's doing Command & Conquer 3, and they're definitely gonna release it for the 360--you heard it here," he proclaimed. "They're really using Battle for Middle-earth II as a springboard, a test to see how it's gonna work for Command & Conquer 3. So they're almost trying to use this as a beta, a very good beta. So when they kind of streamline this, when they design Command & Conquer 3, they'll be able to get a lot more information and they'll be able to come out with a really strong Command & Conquer 3 both for the PC and the 360."
Following those comments, Glicker went on to interview Louis Castle (pictured), EALA's Vice President of Creative Development and cofounder of Westwood Studios, creator of the C&C series. His presence right after Glicker's comments regarding the 360 C&C 3 led many to believe Castle himself had confirmed the game's existence.
But while he talked at length about BfMEII and how EALA had prototypes of unnamed 360 RTSes, Castle steadfastly refused to answer any questions regarding C&C 3. First, he rebuffed a general question about upcoming EALA projects by saying, "Obviously, I can't talk about games that aren't announced yet." Then, he shot down a specific question about the already-announced PC C&C 3 with a flat "I can't talk about it."
But Castle's clamming up doesn't necessarily mean that C&C 3 isn't coming to the 360. Glicker's reputation is solid and his network of contacts vast, so it's entirely possible that he was told of the game off the record. Eventually, he will likely get it on the record as well. "We're going to have more information on C&C later in the year--I'll keep you in the loop," he told listeners.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that it's been confirmed. However, time--and the retail performance of BFMEII--will tell if C&C 3 is 360-bound.
Source: Reports on numerous film- and game-fan sites, including Joblo.com, which cited a report in Variety.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: At the 76th Annual Academy Awards, legendary director Steven Spielberg handed out the Best Picture statue to The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. It was the first fantasy film to ever win the top Oscar, and Spielberg heaped praise on the picture and its director, Peter Jackson, both during and after the ceremony. "It's a great day for fantasy and fantasy fans," he told reporters at the post-awards press conference.
Spielberg's comments seemed ironic, as he himself has never directed a high-fantasy movie. Though his futuristic sci-fi efforts are myriad, including War of the Worlds and Minority Report, the closest he has ever come to fantasy are the supernatural-themed Indiana Jones adventures, the schmaltzy romance Always, and the children's film Hook.
So when reports attributed to Variety claimed that Spielberg was getting onboard the recently announced World of Warcraft movie, it struck many as the perfect fit. Besides being an avid gamer who attends E3 every year, Spielberg has also had a long-term relationship with Universal Pictures, which used to be a subsidiary of media conglomerate Vivendi. Vivendi is the current owner of WOW developer-publisher Blizzard Entertainment.
Alas, like so many things that sounded too good be true, the Spielberg rumor was just that. Today's issue of Variety contains no articles on a WOW movie, and there's no article in its archives where Spielberg mentioned being involved in the project. By the afternoon, several sites like Joblo had retracted the rumor, although others continued to parrot is as gospel.
For its part, Blizzard would only say no World of Warcraft director has yet been chosen. "No final determinations have been made at this time," a rep told GameSpot. "We're working closely and carefully with [production company] Legendary Pictures on ensuring that the team that forms around this epic production will be equipped to fully capture the Warcraft universe on film. We look forward to revealing further details about the cast and crew in the months ahead."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for now--but one can dream, can't one?
The official story: Grand Theft Auto publisher Rockstar Games had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: When Electronic Arts bought Criterion Games in July 2004, it did more than add the Burnout extreme-racing franchise to its game garage. The Guildford, UK-based developer is also the creator of the RenderWare engine, which powers many games published by EA rivals--games such as Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Take-Two Interactive, owner of Rockstar, must have been less than thrilled when EA bought Criterion, as the purchase meant it would have to pay royalties to its archrival for each GTA game sold.
Given the royalty conundrum and the desire for cutting-edge graphics, many assumed that the next GTA would be based on an all-new engine. So when word began to spread that MTV was saying GTA IV would be based on RAGE, industry watchers nodded approvingly. After all, the technology--which stands for Rockstar Advanced Game Engine--was developed in-house at Rockstar, meaning no royalty payments to third parties would be necessary. Furthermore, Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis shows that RAGE is capable of both impressive graphics and physics, two areas that drew fire from GTA detractors.
But as logical as the TVG story sounded, it could not be verified as of press time. Neither of the game sections on the US or UK MTV Web sites had any visible stories about GTA IV, and inquiries to Rockstar reps had gone unanswered as of press time.
[UPDATE] GameSpot News got in contact with MTV, and the article is still up--it's just slightly over a month old. Rockstar voluntarily admitted that the RAGE engine would be used in all upcoming Rockstar Games, including the next GTA.
Bogus or not bogus?: Given the positive feedback on Table Tennis and the huge potential savings, this smells legit.
Source: The independently owned and operated gaming blog F13.net.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: As is this case every year, April 1 saw many gaming sites post joke news stories and features. This year, a major outlet for game news and information pulled a major prank in the form of a parody "exclusive preview" of World of Starcraft, a sci-fi massively multiplayer online role-playing game in the vein of World of Warcraft.
While World of Starcraft was the subject of fiction, an unconfirmed report surfaced late today that indicates such a project may indeed soon become a reality. "Schild," one of the proprietors of f13.net, claims to have heard from an associate who was in attendance at a presentation Blizzard Entertainment parent company Vivendi gave "to Wall Street today."
According to Schild, the Vivendi rep told the audience that "All Blizzard franchises will become MMOGs," and the developer-publisher has "a model now to develop an MMOG in three years for $50 million." According to the report, Vivendi's plan is to have two types of MMOGs--"long session games (more than two hours per session) and short session games (less than two hour sessions)." That means that, in theory, a World of Starcraft or Diablo MMOG could be ready as early as 2009, if it was started this year.
So is the report legit? Well, as an example of short-session MMOGs, Schild mentions Freestyle Street Basketball, the Korean-developed massively multiplayer sports game that Vivendi will publish in North America through its Sierra brand next spring. And, while not proof of anything, Schild's skepticism about the project is also refreshing. "Apparently splitting what will probably end up as 8-10 million customers ... across three games isn't a concern to them [Vivendi]," Schild notes. "They're lucky stock brokers know nothing about video games."
Obviously, Vivendi wants to duplicate WOW's runaway success. But is the big V already pimping out future MMOGs to investors? Apparently not, if a post from a moderator in the Blizzard forums is to be believed. Last night, "Drysc" told a thread of understandably excited WOWers the following: "I believe this was a misquote. We haven't announced any specific development plans beyond the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft, and we don't have any intentions to focus on only one genre or platform with our future games."
Drysc's comments are semi-substantiated by Blizzard's jobs page, which has listings for both PC and console positions. However, with Starcraft: Ghost on indefinite hiatus, there's a chance the console title in question could be an MMOG as well.
[UPDATE 2] Later, another Blizzard moderator, "Eno," issued a more vociferous denial. "Nothing in that rumor is true in regards to Blizzard.," he said in a post. "If I had to guess, there was some confusion between what Vivendi has planned for its its game division versus what Blizzard has planned. While Blizzard is owned by Vivendi, their game division operates separately from Blizzard."
[UPDATE 3] However, by noon the official word had come down from Blizzard that the rumor was untrue. "No, that rumor is not true in regard to Blizzard," the company told GameSpot this morning. "We believe that the rumor circulating about this subject is based on a misinterpretation of information provided to industry analysts. We do not currently have any MMO development plans beyond the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft, and furthermore, we don't have any intentions to focus on only one genre or platform with our future games."
Bogus or not bogus?: Officially bogus--for now, anywyay.
Source: eBusiness Web site WebProNews.com and a few others.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Last week, Nintendo was awarded a patent from The United States Patent and Trademark Office, titled "Messaging service for video game systems with buddy list that displays game being played." In layman's terms, the patent is for a system akin to the familiar buddy lists in instant messaging programs, and, because of its relevance to gaming systems, more closely similar to features of Microsoft's Xbox Live service.
Sifting through the patent reveals plans for "one or more buddies identified on a buddy list previously defined by the user" where the status of the buddies can be displayed, even if the users are playing different games. In short: Gamers will be able to see what their friends are playing, and vice versa.
The document also details a messaging system, where users can send and receive messages over Internet-connected systems--just like Xbox Live. Also like XBL, the service would notify players when they've received a message, even if they are in the middle of playing a game. The patent also mentions both text and voice messages "between two or more logged-in players."
As the patent was filed in late 2000, there isn't any specific mention of the DS or the Wii, although it does allude to "game systems" and handhelds. This means that Nintendo could be shooting for future interconnectivity between its handhelds and consoles, but at what point is unknown.
While some might accuse Nintendo of ripping off Xbox Live, the fact is the patent was originally filed before the first Xbox came out. That led webpronews.com to speculate that Nintendo could sue Microsoft, even though Xbox Live has been in place for years.
"It looks as though Microsoft's Xbox Live system may infringe upon Nintendo's new patent," reads the article. "If so, Nintendo could try to reach a cross-licensing deal that would allow it to delve into areas covered by some of Microsoft's patents. Sony is another potential target if Nintendo tries to pursue the matter."
Not so fast, says John Stickevers, a partner with Boston-based intellectual property law firm Bromberg & Sunstein. "Although the title seems broad, and one might think that Nintendo could assert this patent against Microsoft's Xbox Live service, the scope of the patent is much narrower," Stickevers told GameSpot News.
"According to the claims, the Nintendo system requires that the client software reside on the game cartridge [or other 'replaceably connectable' storage device] and when the cartridge is inserted and the game is made active, the client program contacts the server to set up the chat. ... Thus, for a competitor to infringe this patent, their chat client application needs to be present on the storage device along with the video game."
As anyone with Xbox Live knows, messages, voice or chat, can be sent without a game running on the system--it's effectively the "heart" of Xbox Live. The Nintendo patent makes special mention of "replaceably connectable" media--a DVD, an external hard drive, a memory card, or anything that can be connected and subsequently swapped out--meaning that their messaging system requires more than just the Wii and its guts.
It should be noted that just because the patent was awarded, it doesn't necessarily mean that Nintendo will use it, nor does it mean that the Wii will definitely have IM-like features. On the other hand, Nintendo's rekindled interest in Web-based connectivity (see: WiiConnect24) is well documented, and some form of messaging system is likely, even if it hasn't been officially announced yet. And even if the Wii doesn't launch with messaging capability, it can always be added later. After all, the the Xbox was on the market for about a year before Xbox Live was introduced.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus, but that would ultimately be for the courts to decide.
Source: A press release on entertainment site Skewed & Reviewed attributed to Boll.
What we heard: Ever since House of the Dead hit theaters in 2003, Uwe Boll has become one of gamers' favorite whipping boys. Besides the aforementioned adaptation, the director has turned two other high-profile games-- Alone in the Dark and BloodRayne--into critically eviscerated would-be blockbusters.
Although he hasn't received many box-office dollars for his efforts, Boll has been the subject of the slings and arrows of countless snide forum posts and deprecating articles. So, today, when Skewed & Reviewed first posted a press release announcing that Boll wanted to take on his detractors in the boxing ring, many took it to be the latest in a series of running jokes about the Schweinfurt, Germany-based filmmaker.
Guess what? It isn't.
Today, GameSpot contacted Boll's recently-hired-but-already-weary-sounding publicist to inquire if the release on Skewed & Reviewed was indeed the real thing. "Here is the press release that you requested," was the sum of the terse e-mail response, which came with a complete version of the release attached.
"Uwe Boll Challenges His Critics 'To Put Up Or Shut Up!'" was the headline of the bellicose statement. It went on to throw down the gauntlet to Boll's online detractors, much like the titular characters did in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
"I am fed up," said Boll. "I'm fed up with people slamming my films on the Internet without see[ing] them. Many journalists make value judgments on my films based on the opinions of one or two thousand Internet voices. Half of those opinions come from people who've never watched my films."
To answer his critics, Boll is orchestrating what might be considered one of the more bizarre sweepstakes in memory. After he finishes the ongoing shoot of In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and the subsequent project, Seed, starring the TV incarnation of Conan the Barbarian, bodybuilder Ralf Moeller (Gladiator), Boll will move onto the big-screen version of studio Running With Scissors' controversial Postal series. During that shoot, Boll will personally take on his biggest detractors in boxing matches to be used in the film.
"Towards the end of the filming of Postal the five most outspoken critics will be flown into Vancouver and supplied with hotel rooms," read Boll's press release. "As a guest of Uwe Boll they will be given the chance to be an extra/stand-in in Postal and have the opportunity to put on boxing gloves and enter a BOXING RING [emphasis in the original] to fight Uwe Boll. Each critic will have the opportunity to bring down Uwe in a 10-bout match. There will be five matches planned over the last two days of the movie. Certain scenes from these boxing matches will become part of the Postal movie. All five fights will be televised on the Internet and will be covered by international press."
However, not just anyone who is so inclined will have the chance to put the smackdown on Boll. "To be eligible you must be a critic who has posted on the Internet or have written in magazines/newspapers at least two extremely negative articles in the year 2005. Critics of 2006 will not be considered," said Boll's statement, meaning that said disparaging reviews must predate the theatrical release of BloodRayne.
Boll also called out two of his fellow filmmakers by name to take him on in the ring. "Roger Avary and Quentin Tarantino are among the most eligible candidates," read the statement, referring to the writer and writer/director of Pulp Fiction. Avary also wrote the screenplay for the film version of Silent Hill and will write and direct the upcoming big-screen spin on the Driver games.
Would-be challengers must submit proof of negative reviews and/or comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. They must also submit to a physical to prove they are a healthy male between 140 and 190 pounds and must sign a waiver saying they will not subsequently ask for fees or residuals following their ringtime with Dr. Boll. In recompense, the winning challengers will be provided hotel rooms in Vancouver, location of the Postal shoot.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. WHO YA GOT?!?!?
Source: Film-industry blog Movie City News.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: At the 2005 Game Developers Conference, Cameron was featured in a montage hyping Microsoft's then-unnamed next-generation console. The director caused a bit of stir when he announced his next big-budget blockbuster, his first since 1997's Titanic, would be developed alongside a high-profile game.
"In my next film, I can only tell you what we're planning on doing, which is simultaneously developing a major motion picture and, hopefully, a major game title that coexists in the same world that shares characters," said Cameron. He continued, "Going into that world will actually inform those watching the film and vice versa. I don't want to say anything more than that, because I don't want to give away some of the cool stuff that we're working on."
At the time, comments by Cameron to film site Comingsoon.net indicated the movie/game crossover would be Battle Angel, an adaptation of the popular Japanese manga series Battle Angel Alita, which is set on a postapocalyptic Earth. However, subsequent statements cast doubt on whether or not Cameron's project was something entirely different. Speaking with BusinessWeek earlier this year, Cameron said his next film was code-named "Project 880." He said he was planning a massively multiplayer game that would tie into the film, which he would only describe as "completely crazy, balls-out sci-fi."
The director's failure to mention Battle Angel caused many to wonder if Project 880 was Avatar, a project Cameron had been nurturing for over a decade. Numerous online reports by people who have claimed to read the "scriptment"--a script-treatment hybrid--for Avatar peg the film as a wildly ambitious sci-fi epic about "a love story set against an interplanetary war." The reports also have its plot revolving around the exploration of the nearest solar system to the Sun, Alpha Centauri, and humankind coming into conflict with its inhabitants, the Na'vi.
This week, MCN posted what it claims is a casting notice for Project 880 online. If authentic, the casting notice indicates that Cameron's next movie--and, presumably, its game tie-in--will be Avatar. The casting notice describes Project 880 thusly: "In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture."
It describes "Jake" as an "angry" but "highly intelligent and creative" twentysomething who is scarred "emotionally and physically" by a "great tragedy." Jake's life is changed by his intimate contact with "Neytiri," a Na'vi female who looks like an "exotic" human female in her 20s and is "lithe as a cat." Interestingly, the casting notice deems it essential that she and all other Na'vi characters have "physical agility and an ear for languages and dialects."
So is the casting notice legit? A rep for LightStorm Entertainment, Cameron's production company, did confirm to GameSpot that a casting notice for Project 880 was recently released but wouldn't comment further on the matter and declined to name a casting director. However, the notice lists Margery Simkin, whose 26-year career has seen her cast everything from Top Gun to xXx: State of the Union, in the position.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looks believable. We'll hopefully know more later this year, when Project 880 is slated to start filming--and presumably development of the MMORPG will kick off, if it hasn't already.
[On a game-related side note, Moby Games has an interesting trivia entry (about half way down the page) on the marked similarities between Avatar and the original Unreal. The two share similar settings and backstories, as well as similar names for creatures, starships, and races. The trivia entry notes that the original Avatar scriptment was finished between 1996-7, before Unreal's 1998 release--but during its development.]
Source: UK/US gaming, anime, manga Web site Clubskill.com, which got hold of an unidentified magazine scan.
What we heard: Xbox Live Arcade games like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Uno have been a hit because they appeal to the masses. More specifically, the budget-conscious masses who don't want to leave the comfort of their couches to play new games. Having said that, any news on Microsoft's online gaming store regularly gets Xbox 360 owners' attention.
Gamers perked up this morning after reading an article on Clubskill.com, which claims to have gotten their hands on a "leaked magazine article that details some of the upcoming content on the Xbox Live Marketplace." The magazine that the article is from was not identified, but given that Clubskill is UK-based, it's likely a periodical from across the pond.
A scan of said article (pictured--click to zoom) reveals a list of content set for release through September, and contains 13 individual downloads. None of the files are unannounced games, but there is plenty of new information, such as release dates and prices, regarding games we've already known about.
One of the noteworthy downloads featured is the much anticipated (and strangely punctuated) Street Fighter II' Hyper Fighting, which the scan says will hit Marketplace in June for 400 points ($5). The game's release date has been in question for some time now, since it missed its initial "early 2006" date.
Other highlights from the scan include a few new modes for Project Gotham Racing 3 ("Cat and Mouse" and "Proximity Based Racing"), a hardcore package for Kameo featuring a new difficulty level for single and cooperative play, and Lumines Live in August/September for *gulp* 1200 points ($15). However, some of the content has already been released, indicating that the scan is dated.
But what of the scan's authenticity? Microsoft would not comment on the article, staying mum on the whole "rumors and speculation" thing. Clubskill never says whether or not they physically have the article, or just managed to rummage up a scan. Given the fact that the screenshot cuts off the entire page, it's presumable that they have just a scan. And if that's the case, it makes it a prime candidate for a Photoshop phake.
However, if someone did fake the scan, they're pretty tapped into the gaming scene, particularly the trends with which XBL Arcade games have been priced. Nothing seems out of the ordinary here, with most games following Marketplace's pricing according to past releases. The first-party content packs are in Microsoft's preferred 500 point ($6.25) increments, whereas the third-party packs are all in 400 point ($5) increments. Also, remakes of classic arcade games (Frogger, Pac-Man, Street Fighter II) are all 400 points ($5), just as Joust, Gauntlet, Smash TV, and Robotron 2084 are (though SFII for 400 points seems cheap).
Unfortunately, there's no way to really say whether this information is legitimate--only time will tell. But because the scan isn't exactly up to date, prices and release dates could very well have changed since. However, it's a good starting point and likely not too far-fetched.
Bogus or not bogus?: We're going with Not Bogus--even if it's fake, it's not far off.
Source: An article on The Inquirer, citing a person sitting next to the author on a flight to Japan.
What we heard: Glancing through the Inquirer article, there are a number of inflammatory passages sure to fuel message board flare-ups between PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 system loyalists, starting with the headline: "PS3 hardware slow and broken." From there, the article says the PS3's RSX graphics chip "appears to be limited to setting up 275 million triangles/second," while saying the Xbox 360 can handle more than 500 million triangles per second.
The other big focus of the article is a picture of a slide said to be from a Sony presentation to developers on the PS3's abilities. The slide lists the speeds at which the Cell processor and the RSX processor can read from and write to the system's main memory, and the "local memory," which appears to be the RSX chip's memory. The Inquirer article draws attention to the listed 16MB per second speed at which the Cell reads from the local memory, calling that stat "the bomb from hell." By the end of the article, the author is ready to raise the white flag on Sony's behalf, saying, "Someone screwed up so badly it looks like it will relegate the console to second place behind the 360."
The Inquirer story has not gone unnoticed. This morning, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. analyst Shawn Milne tried to set investors straight on the article. "Yesterday, an online media source indicated that there were significant problems with PS3 development and, specifically, the memory capability of its RSX graphic processor (supplied by Nvidia)," Milne wrote. "Importantly, according to our industry sources, we believe the data cited by the source was taken out of context and incorrectly stated that processing speeds were slower than expected."
Even so, analysts aren't always right. So GameSpot turned to developers working on games for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 to help clarify matters.
"From the way that article was written, you can tell that the person doesn't do any PS3 development, as he isn't talking at all about the other smaller processors which surround the Cell," one developer said. "I am not sure if the final development kits are out yet (maybe to just a few developers), so I don't know what he is benchmarking against. Also, he is doing a lot of bashing, so it is hard to take him seriously. Basically, if what they say is correct, then the PS3 would be good with games like Fight Night, where you have a small environment with just a couple characters, but with big open area games, like Grand Theft Auto, it will have problems."
Another developer working on a game for a different publisher questioned the "sky is falling" tone of the original article, saying that the writer makes the situation appear more dire than it actually is. However, the developers' comments seemed to indicate that neither knows exactly what to expect from the final PS3 hardware. And five months from launch, that is a concern all its own...
Bogus or not bogus?: Semibogus. Nothing is for certain until the final hardware is released, but the situation will almost certainly not be the doomsday scenario outlined by the The Inquirer.
Source: One of those famed anonymous sources spilling the beans to blog Joystiq.
What we heard: Microsoft knows it's hip to accessorize, and at this year's E3, the company revealed some new products for its Xbox 360. Coming soon are the Xbox Live Vision camera peripheral, a Bluetooth wireless headset, and a wireless steering wheel aimed at the 360's many driving games. The three accessories were shown off behind glass at Microsoft's E3 booth, along with a wireless gaming receiver that allows 360 peripherals to be used with PCs.
As with any announcement, the next thing gamers want to know is, "when and how much?" Though Microsoft has confirmed a release date for the Vision only (September 19 in North America), all the other bits of information are up in the air. However, one Web site claims to have the scoop.
This morning, the folks over at Joystiq posted some details it got from a mole inside Microsoft. According to the snitch, the Vision camera will be bundled with Xbox Live Arcade game Uno and a month's subscription to Xbox Live Gold for...drum roll...$40. Also rolling out will be the wireless headset with a 30-foot range and a 256MB memory unit, both for $60. The gaming receiver and faceplates with Halo, Forza Motorsport 2, and Viva Pińata themes will all cost $20.
The mole had no pricing information on the steering wheel or the external HD-DVD drive, but the majority of the above peripherals will be released in the good-ol' "Holiday 2006" window, except for the wireless gaming receiver, which hits in early 2007.
Microsoft only had the following to say: "At this point Microsoft has announced the launch dates and some of the initial title support for the Xbox Live Vision camera. However, Microsoft has not announced pricing, or any additional details regarding the Xbox Live Vision camera. These will be announced ahead of the launch." Stamp the mole's report "unofficial" in big, red letters.
But is it plausible? The answer, based on Microsoft's tendencies, is a resounding "heck yeah!" The Vision bundle is just what Microsoft wants to get into gamers' homes. For a reasonable $40, the company can show off its Xbox Live service and the camera functions with an Xbox Live Arcade hit, in hopes of hooking gamers into yearlong subscriptions.
There's no word on an a la carte Xbox Live Vision deal. That could cause an uproar for the many gamers who already own Uno and multimonth subscriptions. But that doesn't mean it won't happen. Breaking down the value of the bundle, the camera would run about $27 (Uno is five dollars, one month of Xbox Live Gold is eight dollars), so if the camera is sold separately, it will likely run around $30.
The mole also seems to hit the mark on the other accessories, as faceplates are currently going for $20, and $60 seems like a solid value for both the wireless headset and the memory unit (well, maybe not the memory unit as the 20GB HD is still priced at $100--but that's another story).
Of course, we won't know for sure until Microsoft announces something official, but it's looking like a wireless, camera-happy holiday for Xbox 360 gamers from where we stand.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not Bogus. Sure the figures could change, but not by much.
Source: A handful of posters on the Cheap Ass Gamer message boards.
What we heard: Last night, a moderator on the Cheap Ass Gamer message boards going by the name of "Trakan" posted pictures of a Nintendo DS Lite he had apparently just purchased from his local Target, about a week and a half before the system's official on-sale date of June 11. The pictures show the North American DS Lite packaging, the system itself, a stylus, an AC adaptor, and a receipt. Details on the receipt aren't clearly visible, but Trakan said it only rang up as a Nintendo DS instead of a DS Lite.
That posting was followed by a number of people from around the country reporting that they had picked up DS Lite systems at their local Targets and Wal-Marts. However, plenty of posters reported failure in their attempts to find a system.
GameSpot's own attempts to find Target and Wal-Mart stores selling the system were similarly stymied. After striking out at three local area stores, we expanded the net. A Target near the company's Topeka, Kansas, distribution center wasn't carrying the systems yet, nor was a Wal-Mart nearby the company's Macon, Georgia distribution facility. Finally, we tried the Wisconsin Target where Trakan reported his DS Lite was purchased from. After some dissembling, the nervous-sounding clerk there told us they had the system in stock behind closed doors, but it wasn't going to go on sale until June 11.
If you need further evidence that DS Lites have made it to American shelves, check out eBay, where a handful are now being offered by multiple sellers. They don't appear to be selling as fast or as high as their Japanese counterparts did at launch, with one unit going for a Buy-It-Now price of $159.99 (but with a $40 shipping charge for US Postal Service Priority Mail), while another was bid up to $162.50 at press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Nintendo has launched the DS Lite early in the US. Not bogus that some stores accidentally broke street date on the system.
Source: A game industry report from research firm The Diffusion Group.
The official story: "As you are used to hearing from us, we have no comment on rumors or speculation."--Microsoft rep.
What we heard: Earlier this year, the game industry was rocked by reports that Microsoft was developing a handheld under the code name Project Origami. After the Origami (pictured) turned out to be merely an " ultra-mobile PC," the Microsoft handheld rumors died down...until San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi released excerpts of his book The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft's Next-Generation Video Game Console. One excerpt said that Microsoft did indeed have handheld plans, with the project being led by the once-ubiquitous and now-invisible executive J Allard. However, according to Takahashi, that project was later scrapped, making Allard's continued low profile all the more mysterious.
Today, the Microsoft portable rumors once again heated up, thanks to a freshly minted report from Texas-based research firm The Diffusion Group. Titled "On the Future of Portable Game Consoles: Analysis & Forecasts," the report asserts that Microsoft's portable is probably on track to hit markets in either late 2007 or early 2008.
"With global [portable gaming console] revenues expected to reach $3 billion annually by 2008, and with only Sony and Nintendo active in the PGC space, Microsoft has before it an incredible opportunity," report coauthor Thomas Wolf wrote in a statement. "It has a critical brand presence in the console space, the breadth and depth of gaming titles, and the marketing clout necessary to enter this space and win decent market share."
But while many outlets have reported the Diffusion paper as being an official announcement of a mini-Xbox, it remains only informed speculation. "New research from The Diffusion Group suggests that Microsoft will likely leverage its Xbox franchise to enter the portable game console market in late 2007 or early 2008," read the report. (Emphasis added.) Indeed, the press release says that the company's portable strategy hasn't even been finalized. "Microsoft has been evaluating two options regarding its portable gaming strategy: licensing a version of its Xbox OS for others to build portable hardware designs upon, or introducing its own branded PGC," read the report.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that it's been officially announced and dated. Not bogus that somewhere in the inner sanctum of Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, campus, a portable plan is being hatched.
Source: See below.
The official story: Apple had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: Of all the products on the market, few engender as much fanatical loyalty as the iPod. Sony was clearly hoping for something similar when it introduced the sleek PlayStation Portable in March of last year, touting that it played games and video, while the iPod didn't.
Last October, Apple removed one of those advantages when it launched the fifth-generation video iPods. Since then, speculation has swirled that the Silicon Valley company is readying an iPod that could play things other than Brick and Parachute, two of the rudimentary games that come with the ubiquitous handhelds.
This week, GameSpot learned that there may be more to the Apple-game rumors than mere Mac-mad daydreams. A tech-sector recruiter contacted the GS NewsDesk with an interesting story of a prospective hire that got away. Recently, when the recruiter made an offer to a software engineer, the engineer turned the offer down--saying he was being "heavily recruited by Apple."
According to the engineer, an Apple hiring manager named Mike Lampell is heading up a group inside Apple's storied iTunes division. The group is specifically hiring for "C/C++ coders with a 'gaming background.'" The engineer says the project in question was described to him as "super secret," and Apple would not even tell him the exact nature of it until he had been hired and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
So how credible is this story? The recruiter's credentials are beyond reproach, leaving the engineer as the wild card. Currently, Apple is only publicly listing one position with "game" in the job title, a "Consumer & Games Partnership Manager" in its Santa Clara, California offices. Strangely though, when one searches for a position with "game" in its description on Apple's job-listing database, no results come up--even though the Consumer & Games Partnership Manager position has the word "game" in the text. A fairly exhaustive review of the software engineer positions found none looking for game experience.
However, the mention of Lampell gives the story some credibility. Lampell is a known developer who used to work at LucasArts, where he was a technical director on several major projects, including Star Wars Republic Commando. Lampell was laid off in August 2004 when LucasArts culled its development department in the first of a series of cost-cutting measures. However, GameSpot could not confirm his current employment at Apple, since attempts to elicit comment from the company had gone unanswered as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: If Apple is doing game R&D, it sure is doing a good job keeping it quiet.
What we heard: Besides filing trademarks with the US Patent Office, one of the ways game companies tip their hand about an upcoming title is by registering Web domain names. That's apparently what happened to Nintendo this week, when some eagle-eyed fan noticed the company had registered the domain "wiikaraoke.com."
Given Nintendo's efforts to target non-gamers and its emphasis on party games, many took the URL as evidence of a karaoke title for the next-gen console. With any other platform, that would be the end of it. But since the Wii's controller--often called the "Wii-mote"--has a speaker in it, speculation rose that said speaker would also act as a microphone.
The microphone theory got a further boost courtesy of a post on Nintendo Revolution Analysis, the blog of a 26-year-old Mexican gamer who calls himself "Yanko." Using diagrams from the patent and for the Wii-mote, Yanko outlines how it could encode and transmit audio from an external analog source to the Wii console. By inference, that means the Wii-mote will be able to act as a microphone.
Besides karaoke games, the obvious application for a Wii-mote-mic would be a voice commands a la Nintendogs or Odama. However, some sites have gone one step further. A string of reports tracing back to a MegaGames.com article speculates that, with the Wii's built-in wireless internet functionality, the Wii-mote could support voice-over IP. That would give it functionality like an Xbox Live headset and could allow it to be used like a phone. As Yanko notes, that would be a very big draw to non-gamers indeed.
Bogus or not bogus?: The Wiikaraoke.com domain registration is real, and the patent analysis is convincing, so we'll go with not bogus on the Wii-mic. As for voice-over IP, given the fact the Nintendo DS already has it, you can bet the Wii will too.
Source: The story first showed up on the screen Gamesradar, with countless others following.
The official story: Inquiries into the matter went unanswered as of press time by Sony.
What we heard: Anyone who has walked into an EB Games or GameStop to buy a new release has probably heard this from the clerk: "Would you like to buy a used copy? It'll save you some money." The deal is symbiotic--the gamer saves 10 bucks or so, and the aforementioned retailers take in a higher profit on the transaction.
Publishers, on the other hand, are the big losers in used games sales. First-party companies, in particular those who are launching a system that at $599 is still taking a loss (we won't mention any names...OK we will, Sony), are obviously particularly concerned over preowned games as those pennies slip through their fingers. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo can all afford to take a financial beating on selling systems because they rely on sales of new copies of software--where the real money is.
If a report on Gamesradar is to be believed, gamers who wish to purchase Heavenly Sword or Resistance: Fall of Man will have only two options: pay full price or get the out of the store. The UK-based Web site claims that retail outlets in the country have been told by Sony that selling preowned PlayStation 3 games won't be possible because there won't be such a thing as preowned games.
Confused? According to the report, Sony is adopting a PC-like mentality and only selling the license to play the game, not actually to own it. If users did not agree to the license, they would be left with an expensive plastic coaster.
GameSpot News asked industry analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities for his take on the legalese. "There are only two ways to create a license: Either the user has to agree to the license or the licensor has to copy-protect its software," he said. "In the first case, the user (licensee) has to AFFIRMATIVELY agree to the license. You see this whenever you install software, and a box pops up requiring you to check 'I AGREE' to a long boilerplate license agreement." (Emphasis in the original.) However, such a system would require that each PS3 be connected to the Internet--a lofty goal, even in today's Web-rich society.
The only other way a user license agreement would be viable would be to require the input of a code, just as publishers do in PC software (think Microsoft Office or Adobe products). To do so, Pachter says the PS3 would require a chip (or similar technology) that registers the disc to the console when first run. "I think it may be too late in the PS3 manufacturing process to include such a chip," he says, presuming one already isn't in the machine.
If this sounds a bit familiar, it's because we all went through this late last year. A rumor hit the Net about PS3s not being able to play used, rented, or borrowed PS3 games--for example, each game could be used with only one console. Sony refuted those claims by saying, "PlayStation 3 software will not be copy protected to a single machine but will be playable on any PlayStation 3 console."
That said, Sony is notorious for its draconian copyright-protection schemes. Late last year, the company had to do major damage control in the wake of the now-infamous Rootkit controversy regarding digital rights management of its music CDs. More recently, it has come under fire for its Japan-only Portable TV service, which lets users download videos onto their PSPs. However, many who pay money for the privilege have been horrified to learn that the videos are playable only for a certain time, after which even the free offerings reportedly erase themselves. Sony must be tempted to impose similar measures to try to recoup the billions of dollars it has spent on the PS3 and its Blu-ray disc format.
Bogus or not bogus?: Say it isn't so, Sony! No? OK, how 'bout you, Pachter? "The rumor about Sony limiting the resale of used games sounds phony to me," said the analyst.