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Source: An interview with Tom Mustaine, Ritual Entertainment's vice president of development, on infamous entertainment-rumor site Ain't It Cool News.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Yesterday, the Thieves Den add-on for the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion went up on Xbox Live Marketplace. It was just latest in the increasing number of content updates that Microsoft is digitally distributing to Xbox 360s via its online service.
So far, the game add-ons for the next-generation console have been small in both size and price. Examples range from cheap new cars for Project Gotham Racing 3, free new cars for Burnout Revenge, and several other Oblivion add-ons for under $3. Microsoft, though, has said it plans to offer more substantial 360 updates along the lines of Valve Software's upcoming episodic expansions to the PC version of Half-Life 2. Indeed, at E3 earlier this month, Microsoft announced it has signed an exclusive agreement to get episodic updates to Grand Theft Auto IV after it ships for the 360 next October.
However, this week, word began to spread that a just-released, episodically updated PC game is coming to the Xbox 360. In a lengthy interview, Mustaine outlined Emergence, the first installment of the Sin Episodes series, and its relation to the original 1998 title SiN. The developer's comments were interspersed with screenshots and photographs of the rubber-catsuit-wearing models playing game heroine Jessica and game villainess Elexis Sinclaire at E3.
However, of greatest interest to unrepentant SiN-ners was a comment Mustaine made towards the end of the article. When asked if the SiN Episodes franchise would remain PC exclusive, he bluntly said it is next-gen-console-bound. "We're going to do a 360 version at some point in the future," said Mustaine. "We haven’t finalized those plans yet so I haven’t really announced it yet. But we will be doing it. ... We were looking at Marketplace for the 360 because episodic on Marketplace would make a lot of sense."
Mustaine also told AICN Ritual was also hoping to bring SiN Episodes to the PlayStation 3. However, when GameSpot contacted him earlier today, his tone had gone from urepentantly boastful to cautiously optimistic. "Nothing is set in stone yet--that’s the joy of those transcribed interviews," he joked. "We are chasing it down! You’ll know as soon as we make a move!"
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that Ritual wants it to happen, bogus that Microsoft has publicly concept-approved the project.
Source: A story in entertainment-industry paper The Hollywood Reporter.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Last week, The Hollywood Reporter ran a story on the upcoming film adaptation of the original PlayStation franchise Fear Effect. The report was cited by many game-press outlets, including GameSpot.
The Reporter claimed not only that Rumble in the Bronx director Stanley Tong was in talks to helm the project, but that it would tie in to an upcoming Fear Effect game for "next-generation consoles." Given the fond memories many gamers have of Fear Effect and its sequel, the piece raised hopes that Eidos would soon announce the game officially.
Now, Eidos has made an official announcement regarding a next-generation Fear Effect--but it isn't the one fans of the series wanted to hear. "There have been some recent reports that Eidos is developing a third Fear Effect title for next-generation consoles," the UK-based, SCi Entertainment-owned publisher told GameSpot. "Although there is no title currently in development, this is something we are considering at this time and we will update accordingly."
Bogus or not bogus?: The Hollywood Reporter story is apparently bogus ... assuming that Eidos' official announcement is not bogus.
Source: Various reports on the Web, including Eurogamer.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: One of the games that made the biggest impressions on E3 attendees this year was Assassin's Creed, currently in development at Ubisoft Montreal. The third-person stealth/action game is a combination of Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell, and is set during the third Crusade in medieval Europe.
Considered by some to possibly be a "system seller," many (Microsoft included, no doubt) were shocked to find that it was only announced for the PlayStation 3 at this year's E3. The game was being shown behind closed doors at Ubisoft's booth in a small room where five stations were set up and Ubi developers ran lucky gamers through personal demos.
Early rumors had the game running on a PlayStation 3 at E3. Soon, rumors flew that the game was actually running on an Xbox 360 dev kit with a PlayStation 2 controller running through a USB adapter.
GameSpot News contacted Ubisoft to set the record straight. "Assassin's Creed was being shown on a PC emulating a PlayStation 3," a rep told GameSpot News. The systems were out of view, so we'll take Ubisoft's word as to what the game was running on.
As for confirming PlayStation 3 exclusivity, solving that riddle is proving as elusive as the game's protagonist. The pre-E3 announcement of the game says only that the game is being developed for the PS3, carefully avoiding any use of the word "exclusivity."
However, one compelling piece of evidence offers insight to the game's future. Assassin's Creed went under the codename Project Assassin, and was shown off as a PS3 game at last year's Tokyo Game Show. A month later, the game was also listed off as a future Xbox 360 title at Microsoft's X05 event in Amsterdam, but little was heard about that version since then.
Ubisoft has a history of showing love for multiple consoles, and has embraced all three next-gen systems with games such as Red Steel (Wii), Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (Xbox 360), and Assassin's Creed (PS3). Red Steel was clearly earmarked for the Wii controller, and GRAW was well known to be an integral part of the Xbox 360's early days as the only next-gen console on shelves.
Those exceptions aside, other Ubisoft franchises are taking the same course as Ubi's current-gen multiplatform releases. The next Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six, and Brothers in Arms games are all being released for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, so why should Assassin's Creed be any different? Answer: it probably isn't.
Ubisoft isn't indicating either way, further fueling the rumor inferno. "Assassin's Creed is coming to the PS3. No other platforms have been announced at this time," said a Ubisoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: What's "official" and what's going to happen are two different things. PS3 exclusive? Likely Bogus. What do you think?
Source: EA's booth at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: The Sims franchise has proved to be a monumental success. The life simulator has been a dominant force on the PC gaming charts since it took the leap from the mind of Maxis Studios head Will Wright onto retail shelves in 2000.
Though Wright wasn't at E3 pimping out some Sims-related gear, Electronic Arts was. Near the area housing Wright's PC game Spore, EA built a 360-degree trailer theater that showed a plethora of games from the publisher, including the lineup from Superman Returns: The Videogame, Battlefield 2142, and Medal of Honor: Airborne.
It wasn't all bullets and fighting, though. Stuck in the middle of the trailer were some cute and cuddly animals--and not the one-eyed freaks of nature of Spore. The familiar cybercitizens of The Sims 2 were shown hanging around in parks and playing with something they haven't been able to since the original The Sims game--pets.
The Sims: Unleashed was released in 2002 and gave Sims the ability to adopt and train pets. But since The Sims 2 was released in 2004, man's best friend hasn't even bothered to show up.
It looks like that's about to change, though. At the end of the trailer, a logo appeared that read "The Sims 2 Pets." No platforms, release date, details, or gameplay was revealed during the segment. It was also unclear whether Pets would be an expansion, one of the smaller add-on packs, or a new spin-off franchise, a la Nintendogs.
In fact, it seems that the E3 clip, approximately 30-seconds long, is the only information on the game. On EA's Web site, a trailer of its E3 lineup shows the same montage that's showing at the E3 booth--minus any mention of The Sims 2 Pets.
When asked about Pets, an EA rep would only say,"We haven't announced anything yet."
Bogus or not bogus?: Not Bogus that it's coming--it was at the E3 booth. But will it be a spin-off? Will it hit consoles? Will it be a full expansion? Will it be a content pack? We say (in order) Bogus (but it's a great idea), Bogus (Sims and consoles just don't get along), Not Bogus (Unleashed: Part II), Bogus (pets are people too! Not just objects!) What do you think?
Source: A teaser splash page on the official FASA Web site.
What we heard: If you were old enough to play role-playing games in the early 1990s, chances are you're familiar with Shadowrun. Created by FASA, who also gave the world Battletech, the innovative RPG that combined high fantasy and high-tech sci-fi. Players could pick from a D&D-esque roster of races--including orcs, elves, and dwarves--and two magic-using classes. However, the setting was largely cyberpunk--a distant future where megacorporations ruled the world and hackers stole fortunes by cracking secure databases via cyberspace...well, that part seemed pretty futuristic back in 1989.
Last summer, those old enough to remember playing RPGs in the late '80s and early '90s were heartened to learn that a Shadowrun game was in the works. It came when FASA Interactive animator Theron Berson let slip that he was working on a Shadowrun game for the Xbox 360 in an interview with RPG Vault. He said the Shadowrun game was "a first-person shooter based on an old paper RPG," raising the prospect of a Deus Ex-like FPS with RPG elements in the Shadowrun universe. Such a project would make perfect sense--since Microsoft bought FASA Interactive in 2001, when its parent company went under.
When asked about a 360 Shadowrun, Microsoft gave its usual nondenial denials, and the project quickly faded into the back of most gamers' minds. But that changed this week when a teaser page appeared on the official FASA Web site. It shows blue silhouettes of a dwarf, elf, human, and what could be an orc, troll, or minotaur--all holding what appear to be futuristic rifles and pistols. Were that not enough, the human figure on the far left has what appears to be a katana, the signature weapon of one of Shadowrun's most popular character classes in Shadowrun--the street samurai.
The timing of FASA's teaser campaign makes it almost assured that Shadowrun will be unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo for the Xbox 360. However, an informed source told GameSpot this week that the game won't be exclusive to the console. According to the source, Microsoft will also use E3 to unveil Shadowrun as part of its reinvigorated push for PC gaming. Unfortunately, the game will reportedly only be compatible with Windows Vista, meaning it won't available until the first quarter of 2007--at the earliest.
Bogus or not bogus?: Judging by the not-so-subtle hint and the source's credibilty, we'll go with not bogus.
Source: A postcard sent out to press to promote Konami's E3 press conference.
The official story: "No comment on the postcard."--Konami rep.
What we heard: Late last year, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima sat down with Famitsu, Japan's leading game magazine. In it, he revealed he was developing an upcoming game for the Nintendo Revolution. He explained to the publication that he wanted the game to be drastically different from the stealth action series that made him famous. He also hinted that he might be targeting female gamers specifically.
While it caused a bit of a stir at the time, Kojima's Revolution revelation faded into the background, thanks to a drought of new information about the project. But that will likely end in two weeks, if the hints on the Konami E3 press conference invitation are to be taken at face value.
The invitation, which arrived in GameSpot editors' mailboxes today, has a gray front with the Kojima Productions logo in the background. In the foreground are six words in all-caps: "RETURN," "REARM," "REGALE," "REBIRTH," "RESPECT," "REFINE." In each of the words, the letters "RE" are conspicuously offset in red. On the back is an even less subtle hint. "The REVOLT begins, Tuesday, May 9. It's the battle for E3," reads the card before giving the details of the event.
Plainly, Konami is hinting that there will be a major announcement at its press conference that has to do with something starting in "Re." But while the Revolution references may have made sense last week, this week everything changed when Nintendo revealed its console's new name: "Wii." Why would Konami send out a teaser postcard for a Revolution game when it knew a name change was in the works?
The answer is on the postcard, which bears a postmark of Wednesday, April 26--one day before the Wii name was revealed. Given that it was sent before the Wii announcement--which many diehard Nintendans are now claiming is a massive hoax--Konami must have stuck with the Revolution name just to not blow Nintendo's cover. That and it would be wii-ly hard to make a cool-sounding teaser with the console's new moniker. (Painful, we know.)
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus--expect official confirmation at E3.
Source: A news story on the Web site of wire service United Press International, which has since been updated.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: As far as gaming Web sites were concerned, there was only one story to report on yesterday: Nintendo's controversial renaming of the Revolution, which now goes by the name "Wii." The fan furor over the move has yet to die down completely--GameSpot's story on the switch has received more than 3,188 mostly angry user comments.
But while most outlets were reporting only on the name change, the news wire service United Press International put up a story saying that Nintendo had confirmed a fourth-quarter release date for the Wii in addition to the name change. So we asked Nintendo PR how we had missed the announcement. A succinct reply came back, with the Nintendo rep saying only, "To my knowledge we didn't announce any sort of launch date yesterday for Wii."
Lo and behold, UPI has since changed its story to say that Nintendo only announced a 2006 release date for the Wii. Meanwhile, some unfortunate affiliates who picked up the original story apparently didn't get the memo. However, gamers can still expect the console to arrive in time for the holidays. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told consumers to expect the console by Thanksgiving. Unless he says something different at Nintendo's pre-E3 event on Tuesday, May 9, expect that launch window to stick.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that the Wii's ship date was announced, not bogus that the Wii will arrive in Q4.
Source: A poster on the widely read Gaming Age forums.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Though they recently underwent a facelift, the Gaming Age forums have long been a place where game-industry insiders go to exchange ideas. It's also a place where a lot of pranksters float rumors, and one doozy rose to the surface this week--and was reproduced in many more mainstream media outlets.
This morning, a thread began underneath the title "Oblivion to be PS3 launch title!...and a PSP version?" The poster claims to have received a "release list" from Bethesda Softworks, developer of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Though the wildly popular role-playing game is currently only available for the Xbox 360 and PC, the poster claims the list ends with two new products: "PS3 Oblivion" and "PSP Oblivion," both due on November 6, 2006.
As one might expect, the post elicited a barrage of Nelson Munz-worthy "HA-HAs" from the anti-Microsoft crowd. Indeed, a PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 version of Oblivion would be a blow to the software giant, since the critically lauded title is seen as an Xbox 360 system-seller and has been a shot in the arm for PC-game sales.
But once the fanboyism subsided, serious debate began about whether or not the post was legit. Some dismissed it on the grounds that the PSP doesn't have the processing power to re-create Oblivion's massive, graphically intense environments. Others pointed out how Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories managed to faithfully pack Grand Theft Auto III's sprawling metropolis onto a UMD--putting a very truncated version of Oblivion's Cyrodil within the realm of possibility.
A PSP Oblivion also wouldn't be the first time the traditionally Xbox and PC-focused Bethesda has published a portable Elder Scrolls. The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey shipped for the N-Gage in fall 2004, and The Elder Scrolls Travels: Stormhold and The Elder Scrolls Travels: Dawnstar were released for mobile phones in 2003 and 2004. Bethesda also already has plans to publish a PSP game, Star Trek: Tactical Assault, later this year.
So is a PS3 port and PSP spin-off of Oblivion in the works? For now, the answer is officially "no." "At present we have no announced plans to bring Oblivion to any other platforms than PC or Xbox 360," was the carefully worded response from Bethesda. "We'll certainly let folks know if that changes."
Bogus or not bogus?: Officially? Bogus for the time being. Unofficially? It's within the realm of possibility.
The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation." -- Microsoft rep.
What we heard: Either Meristation.com is darn creative, or Microsoft has a serious leak problem. The Madrid-based game site claims to have received a laundry list of revelations from a chatty employee of the software behemoth's Xbox 360 division.
If true, the list augurs a host of major Xbox 360 developments in the coming months. Foremost among these is a price drop in October, shortly before the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution go on sale. According to Meristation.com's source, the price of the premium Xbox 360 bundle will go from $399 to $299, while the core bundle will drop $80 from $299 to $219.
The Microsoft mole also reportedly had revelations regarding some Xbox 360 peripherals. S/he said that the console's HD-DVD peripheral will be $100 and arrive in September, the same month that its EyeToy-like camera will ship. The camera will cost $50-$70 and come bundled with a game, will allow for Webcam videoconferencing, and be called "My Eye on You." (Insert snide Orwellian Bill-Gates-as-Big-Brother aside here.) The source also says that Microsoft is readying a 100GB hard drive for the 360, but did not have a release date or price.
On the game tip, the Meristation.com mole said that Halo 3 will be at E3 in two weeks in trailer form. The game will reportedly ship in March 2007, several months before the Halo movie is slated to hit theaters.
Another highly anticipated Xbox 360 game, Gears of War, will arrive the last week of October 2006 on the crest of a massive marketing push, according to the mole. Microsoft is also reportedly in negotiations to get exclusive rights for a high-profile "urban game"--which the site speculates could be the next Grand Theft Auto.
Though the above rumors are more than enough craziness for an asylum's worth of insane gamers, the Meristation story has more. It says that Sega has struck a deal much like its one with Nintendo to make most Genesis games playable on the Xbox 360 via a "virtual console." The site says said functionality will be available as of October, along with another wave of all new Xbox Live Arcade games.
Meristation's rumorpalooza wraps up with the mention that two new Xbox 360 dashboards are in the works, with one designed specifically for kids. It also says that Microsoft has signed deals with Epic Records for Xbox-360-exclusive music content, and with NBC to televise Xbox Live tournaments. Speaking of Xbox Live, the story also says that the bandwidth devoted to the online service will soon quintuple.
There's no question that the Meristation speculation will cause palpitations in just about any Xbox fanboy or girl. But once the enthusiasm generated by the story dies down, skepticism sets in. The simple fact is, with Microsoft maintaining its traditional wall of silence, there is no way to confirm or deny any aspect of the story. However, if even half of the details are true, Sony and Nintendo will be playing a serious game of catch-up when their consoles launch later in the year.
Bogus or not bogus?: There's no way of saying for sure, but take heart: Microsoft's pre-E3 press briefing is just over two weeks away.
Source: A quickly pulled product page on EBgames.com.
What we heard: The PlayStation 2 never had a first-person online shooter that was a phenomenon like the Xbox's Halo 2. However, it did have the SOCOM: US Navy Seals series, one of the most popular online third-person shooter franchises for current-generation consoles.
While the highest-rated and best-selling offline third-person shooter on current-gen consoles is the Grand Theft Auto series, the SOCOM series isn't exactly slouching. According to the NPD group, combined sales of all three PS2 SOCOM games tally nearly 4 million units. That success was passed on to the first PlayStation Portable entry in the series, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo, which has sold more than 435,000 units as of February 2006.
With that kind of track record, it wasn't a question of if SOCOM would return to the PSP and PS2, but when. If a short-lived EBgames listing is to be believed, "when" is this fall. The page (pictured), which was up today for a few hours before being unceremoniously yanked, showed one "SOCOM US Navy Seals Combined Assault." It listed that the game was due November 7, 2006.
According to the page, Combined Assault will let players "battle through an intense Area of Operation with multiple and diverse missions spawning within this deadly region." The game will have "new vehicles and weapons for single player and co-op modes." One of those modes will let four players play through the entire single-player campaign in co-op.
The product page also promised even more integration with another game--whose existence it revealed. The listing promised "more robust Crosstalk with SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2, including a single story arc, and all new action events and unlockables."
So is the page real? Well, the probability that EBgames.com was hacked and an entire fake page was put up is extremely low. The amount of detail in the entry means that it is impossible that it was a mere mis-listing of another product. Then there's EBgames.com's long track record of accidentally revealing games' existence before tightfisted publishers officially tip their hands to the public (Xbox 360 Burnout, Halo 2 Multplayer Map Pack). The odds are leaning overwhelmingly in favor of...
Bogus or not bogus?: ...not bogus.
Source: Magazine scans posted at a variety of places, including the 3D Realms forums.
The official story: Neither Electronic Arts nor PC Gamer had responded to requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: It seems like advance copies of print magazines are preempting game announcements all over the world. Yesterday, it was the British Official Xbox Magazine blowing the lid off F.E.A.R. for the Xbox 360, much to the chagrin of PC gaming purists.
Many of the same people who scoffed when they heard that F.E.A.R. would be ported to consoles got a pleasant surprise today. That's when scans began to circulate of what is almost certainly the cover of next month's PC Gamer magazine.
Like most covers, the one pictured isn't shy about telling onlookers about its contents. In huge letters in the middle, it trumpets "Command & Conquer 3" underneath the words "New race, new story, new war!"
So is the shot actual confirmation of the C&C's existence? Well, if it's a fake, it's a clever fake. The format is exactly the same as that of the magazine's cover style, as can be seen on its Web site. Besides using the same fonts as previous issues, it also has the correct issue number, 149.
While official confirmation still hasn't been received, there was little question that a new Command & Conquer would come along eventually. With real-time strategy games among the best-selling PC games, there was much speculation that Electronic Arts would eventually bring back the storied series. Never mind that EA never met a franchise it didn't like. In 1998, it bought Westwood Studios, which was folded into EALA in 2003, primarily to get hold of the Command & Conquer license.
Today's leak appears to confirm whispers among the development community that the C&C franchise was being resurrected after going on hiatus after September 2003's Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour. Indeed, EA's recent release of Command & Conquer The First Decade, a compilation of 12 C&C games, now appears to be a marketing move to restoke interest in the franchise.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus--expect more at E3...or sooner.
Source: Aa scanned image that many sites have claimed is of the contents page of next month's Official Xbox Magazine.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: When it hit stores last October, F.E.A.R. was one of the most acclaimed new releases on the market. Console jockeys everywhere looked on with envy as their PC-gamer cousins blasted their way through the intense shooter, developed by Monolith Productions (Condemned: Criminal Origins). However, their hopes were raised in February, when rumors swirled that the game was coming to the Xbox 360.
Though VU Games wouldn't comment on the rumors at the time, they appear to have been confirmed. The proof comes in a photo that many posters claim is from next month's issue of Official Xbox Magazine. "World's first Xbox 360 shots" trumpets the page next to a picture of one of the troopers featured in the game. Below are the words, "The most destructive shooter ever made tears up the Xbox 360."
So is the scan legit? "I'm not sure what magazine that image is from, but it's not ours," US OXM editor-in-chief Francesca Reyes told GameSpot. Though most sites that posted or referenced the scan said it was from the US OXM, others have pegged it as being from the UK publication of the same name.
[UPDATE] Since this story was published, an avalanche of reports and scans have been submitted by UK readers claiming the 360 scans are from the UK OXM. Indeed, the magazine's Web site has a full-on product page for the game. "Condemned developer Monolith made its name in the FPS genre with F.E.A.R. on PC, a terrifying shooter that blended survival horror with intense action," reads the description. "You can expect the same mix of fear and frantic shooting on the Xbox 360."
Given the product page, the volume of scans, the vociferousness of the claims, and the fact the UK OXM is a respected magazine, a 360 F.E.A.R. appears to indeed be in the works. Expect an official announcement sometime before the Electronic Entertainment Expo--which is now just three weeks away.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that it's from the US OXM; apparently not bogus that it's from the UK OXM.
Source: A poster on the influential Gaming Age Forums.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Though Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and World of Warcraft are hogging most role-playing gamers' attention at the moment, there are many other fantasy-themed RPGs in the works. One of the most anticipated is Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, a massively multiplayer action RPG based on Robert E. Howard's influential series of Conan the Barbarian stories.
Like most MMORPGs, Age of Conan is PC-exclusive. However, that may change, according to a GAF poster. Said poster claims to have a friend who attended a question-and-answer session held by Funcom, the Norwegian developer of Age of Conan.
According to the poster, the Funcom developers "showed a trailer with a pretty intense draw distance apparantly [sic] as well as Conan himself wielding a morning star which seemed totally realistic in how the spiked ball would behave due to its weight and momentum." Then, "a question was asked about if they were thinking about other platforms than PC...then the spokesman [Bjorn Sundquist] made a kauf [sic] gesture saying *kauf*Xbox360*kauf*." (Emphasis added.)
Does a secondhand account based on hearsay mean the game is coming to the console? Answer: No. But it certainly raises the tantalizing possibility that it might. Currently, the only MMORPG currently slated for Microsoft's console is Final Fantasy XI. Besides being merely a souped-up version of a game that's been available on the PS2 and PC for years, FFXI doesn't have much appeal beyond the Japanese RPG crowd. With World of Warcraft staying strictly PC, Age of Conan could step into the void and become the must-have RPG for the platform. That would be great news for Xbox 360 owners, since Age of Conan was voted the most promising MMORPG of E3 2005 by GameSpot editors.
Another reason Age of Conan might be appealing to Microsoft is that, even though it is still officially set for release this coming May, it does not yet have a publisher. That means that, if it so chose, Microsoft could publish the game itself--and reap profits from it directly.
Officially, though, Age of Conan remains a PC product. "We haven't announced anything related to Conan and the 360, but I've think we have (over and over) stated that we are aiming to deliver all our future online RPGs to consoles," said Funcom rep Jørgen Tharaldsen "We did play the game on gamepads at E3 last year, but besides that I can't tell you much more at the moment except the fact that we are launching it on the PC."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for now ... but let's hope it's eventually true, by Crom.
Source: A blog posting from Toys For Bob producer Alex Ness on the company's Web site.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: The Star Control trilogy has been dormant for a decade, and while it's gone, it most definitely has not been forgotten. It has appeared on the Sega Genesis, Amiga, Commodore 64, and 3DO, but the series is best remembered for its PC installments, Star Control II in particular. After all, it was that game's combination of arcade action, sci-fi strategy, open-ended role-playing, and fine-tuned gameplay balance that earned it induction into GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time.
And now the development house responsible for the first two Star Control games wants to get another crack at the franchise. But as Toys For Bob producer Alex Ness explains on the company's site, there are hurdles to clear.
"We (I) want us to do a Star Control sequel," Ness wrote, adding, "it's very hard to convince large publishing companies that a new Star Control would sell very well in the current video game market. But maybe, just maybe, if enough of you people out there send me e-mails requesting that Toys For Bob do a legitimate sequel to Star Control 2, I'll be able to show them to [Toys For Bob parent company] Activision, along with a loaded handgun, and they will finally be convinced to roll the dice on this thing."
In soliciting support for the cause, Ness implies that Toys For Bob has recently acquired the rights to make more games with the franchise and even links to an (inactive) online petition that was signed by thousands of devoted fans between 2000 and 2004. Gamers who want to help Ness out can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the same post, Ness reveals that the company's yet-unannounced current project (which has been in development for about a year) will be unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next month, but he says he doesn't yet know what it is. "Hopefully I will know what game it is beforehand, because I am supposed to be demo-ing it down at the show," Ness wrote.
Given the discussion of Star Control in the same posting, some readers (this writer, for instance), inferred that the game in question could be a spiritual successor of sorts to Star Control. Perhaps it was a space strategy game of some sort that only needed approval to have the license and lore of the Star Control universe slapped onto its existing gameplay.
When pressed for details by GameSpot, Ness dashed those hopes. He said he does, of course, know what game he's working on, and it's not a Star Control sequel. "It's pretty cool and fun but has nothing to do with Star Control or space or role-playing," he said. "It should be out by the end of the year. My hope was that some time in the future, maybe the next project or maybe the one after, we would get a chance to make another Star Control game."
As for Activision's take on the situation, a rep would only say, "We currently do not have any information about Star Control."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus...for now.
Source: Self-styled "online radio station" Orange Lounge Radio.
The official story: Konami reps had not returned requests for comment.
What we heard: Given that its primary focus is "Konami's beat-matching series of games such as the popular games Dance Dance Revolution and Beatmania," there's no question Orange Lounge Radio has its collective eye on Konami. So, despite the site's low profile, people took notice this week when it crowed it had uncovered a slew of unannounced games and ship dates, courtesy of a leaked list Konami had sent to retailers.
Given their mission statement, the editors of Orange Lounge Radio were presumably most excited by the list's alleged mention of no fewer than three new DDR titles. Dance Dance Revolution Supernova, currently available only in arcades, will ship for the PlayStation 2 on September 13, just a month before the series' next-generation debut, the as-yet-unannounced Dance Dance Revolution Universe for the Xbox 360, on October 11. Finally, Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 4 will come to the current-generation Xbox on November 14.
The list purportedly reveals the existence of a new Castlevania game for the DS. Titled Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, the game is slated for release on November 15, just over a year after the franchise first hit the platform in the form of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows.
The list also caused some confusion with the mention of a Silent Hill-related PlayStation Portable game. Orange Lounge Radio assumes that the product in question, called Silent Hill: Original Sin, is a portable remake of the original game and "will feature the original storyline with a few twists." However, the only PSP Silent Hill game Konami has announced so far is the Silent Hill Experience, an interactive comic on UMD. Could the PSP game mentioned be the same thing with a new name? Probably not, since the Silent Hill Experience is listed on EBgames.com as already shipping--no doubt to help hype the Silent Hill film, due next Friday. The list supposedly says that Silent Hill: Original Sin won't ship until October 18.
In the slightly less macabre department, the leaked list reportedly promises not one, but two new Death Jr. games. Not only will the mini-Grim Reaper return on the PSP in the form of Death Jr. 2, but it will also allegedly be coming to the Nintendo DS as an all-new game, Death Jr.: Science Fair of Doom.
The list also promises a potentially very lucrative tie-in for Konami. According to Orange Lounge Radio, the list has Karaoke Revolution: American Idol arriving in stores on November 15. If true, the game would be the second one based on the megapopular television series, after Codemasters' dismally reviewed 2003 game.
Last but not least, the site claims that the retailer lists the much-awaited Bomberman: Act Zero's North American release date--July 12 for the Xbox 360. It also claims that Bomberman's PSP debut, called Bomberman: Bakufuu Sentai Bombermen in Japan, will go on sale the same day.
So how reliable is Orange Lounge Radio's story? Though there is no concrete evidence, the amount of detail makes it sound more plausible than not. However, nothing is official yet. Adding to the evidence is the fact that until this morning, EBgames.com had listings for the two new Death Jr. games as well as Bomberman: Act Zero for the Xbox 360. The online store still has a listing for a PSP Bomberman: Act Zero as coming on June 1.
Bogus or not bogus?: We'll take a chance and say not bogus--E3 will likely prove us wrong or right.
Source: The usually reliable script-sneaking site LatinoReview. (WARNING: Review contains strong language.)
The official story: Attempts to contact representatives at Spy Hunter distributor Universal Studios were not returned as of press time.
What we heard: LatinoReview is at it again, it seems. Last year the underground film site posted its reviews of scripts for the upcoming Splinter Cell and Halo movies (the latter of which received a rating of five stars on a scale of one-to-four), and now it has posted a script review for Universal Pictures' upcoming Spy Hunter movie, as well as a series of rough animations that provide a look at one of the film's stars: the tricked-out, superspy vehicle known as the Interceptor.
The car isn't the movie's only big draw, however. Spy Hunter will also star former WWE wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (The Rundown, The Scorpion King) as Interceptor wheelman Alec Decker. It was originally slated for a summer 2005 release but was pushed back by Universal so the distributor could focus on its other Rock-starred, game-based action film, Doom.
LatinoReview writer El Mayimbe handles the recap of the script (as he did for the Halo and Splinter Cell reviews) and gives it an overall grade of B+ (it seems the site has changed its ratings scale recently). There are some light spoilers along the way (and in the rest of this story), so tread carefully.
In the script Mayimbe reviews, the Spy Hunter organization is a secret global organization whose work consists of hunting down rogue spies. Decker is an agent of the organization, and his latest mission calls for him to track down a spy who has stolen US military encryption codes. Nostra, a terrorist group led by a man in a sinister-looking breathing mask, is looking to get its hands on those codes and will, of course, go to any extremes to do so. The matter is complicated when one of the founding members of the Spy Hunter organization goes rogue and steals the codes himself. Mayimbe calls the film "a good old-fashioned...popcorn-adventure movie," and even goes so far as to compare the feel of the film to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
"Spy Hunter is obviously better than Universal's other car movie [The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift]," Mayimbe writes. "There hasn't been that much escapist fantasy lately, and Hollywood needs to start making movies fun and cool again, and Spy Hunter definitely fits that mold. Like the Spike TV mantra, a movie for guys who like movies."
As for the authenticity of the script being reviewed, LatinoReviews has a decent track record on these matters, with reviews for Fantastic Four, Batman Begins, Man on Fire, and more being pretty closely representative of the movies as they turned out. The possibility of LatinoReview getting its hands on an early script seems more likely when one considers the sampling of other related materials featured on the site (animatics and a teaser poster curiously calling the film "Spy Hunter 3").
Of course, there's a lot that could happen to a script on its way to hitting the big screen, so the plot could be reworked any number of ways. And as for the quality of the script, one man's fun popcorn flick is another man's brain-dead exercise in tedium, so that's definitely up in the air.
Bogus or not bogus?: Most likely not bogus--but not necessarily representative of the end product, either.
Source: A research note from Wall Street firm Lazard Capital Markets.
The official story: Sony had not responded to requests for comments as of press time.
What we heard: Toward the end of last year, many analysts were convinced that Sony would drop the price of the PlayStation 2 to $129 or even $99 to blunt the launch of the Xbox 360. As it turns out, that didn't happen. Year-on-year sales of the console rose 10 percent during the Holiday 2005 season, thanks to frustrated shoppers settling when they couldn't find an elusive Xbox 360. (The rise was also due to the fact that the PS2 was in short supply during Q4 2004.)
Still, rumors of an even-cheaper PS2 resurfaced today, thanks to the aforementioned Lazard Capital Markets report. Its author is Colin Sebastian, a senior game-industry analyst who is as well-respected--if not as publicly visible--as Wedbush Morgan's omnipresent Michael Pachter.
In his note, Sebastian says that a PS2 price cut could be just weeks away. "Our industry checks indicate that Sony is planning to cut the PS2 price to $129 from the current $149 before the end of this month," he wrote.
So is a PS2 price cut in the offing? Sony isn't saying. The last official word on the matter came at last month's PlayStation Business Briefing in Tokyo, when Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi said the company had no plans to drop the PS2's current price of $149 in the US.
However, given that the PlayStation Business Briefing was called to revise another of Kutaragi's proclamations--that the PlayStation 3 would launch in Spring 2006--it's plausible that Sony's tune could change. The company also has some wiggle room--while Microsoft loses an estimated $126 on every Xbox 360 sold, Sony reportedly makes money on each unit of the new slimline PS2.
But even if a PS2 price cut doesn't happen this month, Sebastian is convinced one will come eventually, given Sony's desire to extend its current-generation console's life cycle. "In our opinion, hardware price cuts are necessary not only to drive demand at the end of a console cycle, but also to bring the current-generation consoles within reach of more value-oriented customers," he wrote. He also says a $99 PS2 is "likely" in 2007.
Bogus or not bogus?: Eventually not bogus, but for now analyst speculation is just that--speculation.
Source: The xtraordinary Xbox xperts at Xboxic.com.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: One of the keys of the Tomb Raider series' success has been the sex appeal of its heroine, Lara Croft. Whether it's her previous buxom incarnation or more-athletic current build, it is self-evident that Croft's designers made her to be pleasing to the eye--and the opposite sex.
In her latest adventure, Tomb Raider: Legend, Croft's outfits verge on the risqué, and include a slinky evening dress, skin-tight artic suit, and the requisite hot pants. However, they remain modest enough for the game to have received a T for Teen rating from the ESRB.
However, according to Xboxic, Legend may not be as demure as it purports to be. The editors of the Dutch Web site pronounced that "the game's US release date of April 11 has been moved back after someone had posted textures of the game to a forum clearly showing nipples on a bare breast."
"The game contains a chapter set in Tokyo, where several women are dancing in the distance," said Xboxic. "To keep it simple for the animators, they had initially modeled all the women naked, so they could simply drape different dresses around them later. Why the breasts were there complete with nipples initially, I don't want to know."
With anticipation for Legend running high, word of the flap spread throughout forums like wildfire. However, Eidos reps were quick to extinguish the fires of speculation. "No, Tomb Raider is not delayed," a rep told GameSpot. "That rumor is false. We are shipping on time for ALL platforms (PlayStation Portable is following by a few weeks as we've stated before)." (Emphasis in the original.)
So where did the nude pictures come from? Eidos reps hinted that they may exist in the European version of the game--but not the one that goes on sale stateside on Tuesday. "No, the file commented on in this post is not in the US version of the game as reported," said the rep, before adding, "Ugh."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.
Source: A report with pictures on PSP Updates.
The official story: "There has not been any official imagery released from Sony Computer Entertainment showcasing the PS one emulator on PSP. Please disregard those images as false."--a Sony representative.
What we heard: This morning, PSP Updates posted a news report about the PSP's upcoming PSone game emulation, based on an e-mail from a reader. Along with the e-mail, the site reprinted three pictures that showed the emulation system's interface and dropped hints about Sony's plans for the service.
Two of the pictures showed a lineup of downloadable games that featured a number of PSone games including Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy VII. The third picture seems to be a submenu from which the user can download Gran Turismo 2, and contains information like the ESRB rating, details on the game's support for ad hoc and Infrastructure Wi-Fi modes, and interestingly enough, a price. Downloading the game would purportedly cost players $15.
However, There are a number of suspicious things about the PSP-download menu pictures. For one, look at the roster of games being offered. Sure, Gran Turismo 2 and Final Fantasy VII make sense, but what's with all the mediocre titles cluttering up the list? Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare? Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes? Not one, but two poorly received Broken Sword games? Then there's Doom II--which was was never released as a stand-alone game on the PlayStation. It was instead included in the original PlayStation version of Doom.
Beyond that, two of the pictures show text transposed over the PSP's signature background of gently lolling wavy lines. The thing is, those lines normally move, and the two screen shots show them in identical positions on the screen, suggesting that someone created both images from the same picture of the PSP background.
On the other hand, it's possible that these are conceptual mockups of the interface prepared internally by Sony, in which case everything is placeholder information (including the price), and things like a duplicated background or fabricated list of games wouldn't be any big deal. Also, incorporating obscure details like the PSP's Parental Control system (which includes 11 different levels of content restrictions) shows an unusual attention to detail for a faker who couldn't be bothered to change up the background from shot to shot.
But if that were the case, why wouldn't Sony have sent forth its cease-and-desist lawyer squad to have the images pulled? You know, the crew that made early info about God of War 2 and a co-op mode for the PSP Killzone disappear from the Web? Or the peeps that did the same thing when a site jumped the embargo date on screens for Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom? It just doesn't add up.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: There are two things required in every great game: 1) Zombies, and 2) Zombie killing. Capcom's upcoming Xbox 360 title Dead Rising has tons of both. The third-person action game sees a photojournalist stuck in a shopping mall with thousands of the walking dead, and it promises lots of shooting, bludgeoning, and stabbing of the lifeless meatbags.
Dead Rising was originally projected to be released in "2006," with gamers hoping for a first quarter release, but is now settled into its most-recent scheduled release date of sometime in June. So when Internet reports began to spring up about the game's delay into September, some upset GameSpot staffers understandably had a hankering to shoot, bludgeon, and stab each other--anything to ease the pain.
Put down your weapons, folks--there's no reason to get all Leon Kennedy just yet. It is true that Dead Rising won't be coming out until September--but only in Europe. An announcement sent out today was mistakenly interpreted by some online sites as applying to North America.
GameSpot News contacted Capcom and got the nitty-gritty. "Actually, Capcom never announced a delay," a Capcom representative said. "The September date is the estimated timing for our European market. I believe there have been some sites that have mistaken this as an 'announcement' for the US as well. This is not related to North America, so please disregard it. We are still using Q2 2006 as our release date."
After a few release date "readjustments," it looks like Dead Rising is finally close to gnawing on Xbox 360s. Plus, the game is being touted as part of the console's second wave of games, and Microsoft will make sure Dead Rising arrives soon as the Xbox 360's catalog has a huge void where "third-person zombie massacre" should be.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for North America, thank heavens. Sorry Europe, you'll have to wait a bit for your abominations in need of wholesale slaughtering.