This week: US populace clamors for adoption of the Blu-ray Disc format---film at 11.
RUMOR #1: The Xbox 360 is launching on November 4...and it may come in black!
The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Microsoft spokesperson.
What we heard: For a very small story, the Xbox365.com caused a whole lotta hoo-ha this week. A blurb on the site home page revealed the following: "According to a slip-up on the Microsoft Partner site, Microsoft (by mistake) has announced (and quickly removed the infomation [sic]) the launch date of Xbox 360 as November 4 - 2005." That's it. Heaven for-effin'-fend that the article mention which "partner site" leaked the information and how said partner is related to Microsoft. Still, it was enough to start an avalanche of forum posts and e-mails, the majority of which were prefaced with "OMG" and ended in "!!!!" But with the powers-that-be in Redmond, Washington, staying mum, our best guess is that this is a case of old-news-resurrected-as-new-rumor, since a Microsoft partner did reveal the Xbox was launching in November...this past May. So much for being au courant. A much-less-irritating rumor was started by Joystiq that showed off a downright sexy image of a matte black Xbox 360 that would match the rest of many gamers' expensive A/V setups. Since the PlayStation 3 will come in three colors, a black 360 would make sense...if it weren't for Microsoft's aggressive fetishizing of its next-gen console's iPod-esque whiteness. Also, the Xbox 360 logo in the lower left-hand corner of the image is from an early version leaked long before the console's name was made public. So if the image is an official mock-up, it's a very old one.
Bogus or not bogus?: $20 says the Xbox launches in November, around the fourth anniversary of the first Xbox hitting the market. However, odds are goth gamers will have to do their own case-modding or just settle for a Skinny Puppy faceplate.
RUMOR #2: Rockstar Games deliberately leaked the "Hot Coffee" mod to stir up interest in the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Source: See below.
The official story: The only official comment Rockstar has issued on the whole Hot Coffee scandal is its press release lambasting "hackers."
What we heard: Like many companies nowadays, the vast majority of communication in the GameSpot offices is done via instant messenger. It's fast, frees up space in your inbox for all that amazing-investment-opportunity spam, and allows people to divulge things they would never say via the phone or e-mail. That's just what happened this week in an IM conversation with a source with intimate knowledge of Rockstar's marketing department--and apparently some deep suspicions about his or her former or current employer or client. The convo went like this:
DEEPTHROAT: ask the right questions and you uncover the truth
NotTorsRealIM: about the GTA XXX stuff?
NotTorsRealIM: OK deep throat
NotTorsRealIM: who would I ask them to?
DEEPTHROAT: i would ask the modder where he got it
NotTorsRealIM: he's not returning e-mails
DEEPTHROAT: i would ask Rockstar if they gave the mod to an interested party as a way to get around the ESRB
NotTorsRealIM: they're not talking either
DEEPTHROAT: for something that was in the game
DEEPTHROAT: its not unlikely that this hot coffee thing
DEEPTHROAT: is merely a marketing ploy
DEEPTHROAT: but I have no proof of that
NotTorsRealIM: wow, this is like X-Files minus the aliens
So was this chat inside info or just speculation from a semi-informed source? Well, we now know that the so-called "Hot Coffee" sex minigame is indeed in the original PlayStation 2 San Andreas source code. However, given the modding community's habit of digging up hidden game files, as well as Rockstar's harsh experience with the Vice City "Kill all the Haitians" controversy, it seems more likely the mod didn't come from them. But if it was an attempt at viral marketing, it certainly garnered a lot of attention...of a grandstanding-politician and gaming industry gadfly.
Bogus or not bogus?: Abstain. A trusted source with no proof does not a conspiracy make.
RUMOR #3: More American game consumers favor the Blu-ray next-generation DVD format than its rival, HD-DVD.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Earlier this week, GameSpot received a press release about a new survey supposedly showing the general public's overwhelming preference (almost 4-to-1) for Sony's forthcoming Blu-ray DVD format over Toshiba's equally unreleased HD-DVD format. The report raised a few red flags, not the least of which is that it was sent to us by a public relations representative for the Blu-ray Disc Association, which--it turns out--funded the study. So it's not surprising that the press release only summarized parts of the survey that favored the Blu-ray format.
When GameSpot asked for the raw data from the study, we received a glaringly incomplete selection of "quantitative data cuts" dated May 31, 2005, as the full results of the survey have not been released. Included in those cuts were responses to questions about whether a generic next-generation disc format (which just happened to have Blu-ray's feature set) sounded like an improvement over ordinary DVDs, assuming they were roughly equivalent in price (big surprise, they did). However, manufacturers will need to overhaul existing factories to accommodate Blu-ray production, and that cost of upgrading is expected to be passed onto the consumer for as much as an extra $10 per Blu-ray Disc (BD).
Interestingly, there was no corresponding question about the HD-DVD's feature set, or at least none that made the publicly released portion of the survey. A question asking whether the respondent would prefer a format supported by Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Apple, TDK, Thomson, Sharp, LG, and JVC (that would be Blu-ray) or one supported by Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, and Thomson (HD-DVD) did make the list. But there was no such question about whether people would prefer a format that makes the discs $10 more expensive or just 10 percent more expensive, as is expected with HD-DVDs.
Bogus or not bogus?: On the survey's legitimacy, bogus. On the public's preference for Blu-ray, possibly not bogus. That's the sort of thing the full results of the survey might help us determine. So where they at?
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