Rumor Control: $99 Xbox, Nintendo 3DS, Baldur's Gate 3

[UPDATE] The week's raked muck yields tidbits on a Panzer Dragoon Saga sequel and a virtual Halle Berry.

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With every publisher in existence releasing their financial figures, it was a crazy week in game land. Rumors ran rampant, including more chatter about a console Battlefield 1942--this time for the PlayStation 2--and a out-of-thin-air $199 price tag for the Nintendo DS. GameSpot culled a few of the more interesting members of the murmur herd to test their veracity:

RUMOR #1: Microsoft will drop the Xbox price to $99 by Labor Day and will have the Xbox 2 ready by 2005.

Source: The latest Game Over column from CNN/Money games reporter Chris Morris.

The official story: Microsoft did not respond to e-mails or voicemails. Shocker.

What we heard: When Morris, one of the most game-savvy reporters in the mainstream media, wrote the speculative headline "Xbox for $99? Xbox 2 in 2005?" he probably knew some gamers would take it as gospel. (Those are question marks, people!) But thousands of subsequent forum posts have treated the price point--which comes from a single analyst--as all but official. But anyone who actually read the article knows that such a deep cut is far from a done deal. Microsoft already loses money on every $179 Xbox sold, so dropping another $80 "would result in a flood of red ink," according to Morris. However, Morris astutely points out that Microsoft cares more about expanding its brand than filling its already overflowing coffers, so such a drastic measure isn't totally out of the question. He's a lot more skeptical about the Xbox 2 launching in 2005, a year before the PS3 is expected. "Showing your hand a year before the industry's 500-pound gorilla does carries a significant amount of risk," says Morris. "Just ask Sega."

Bogus or not bogus?: Semi-bogus. The consensus among game-industry insiders is that there will be an Xbox price cut this year. The only question is how big it will be.

RUMOR #2: The Nintendo DS will incorporate 3D technology from Sharp.

Source: UK-based online game mag Gamesindustry.biz.

The official story: A Sharp spokesperson did not confirm nor deny the story. However, given the company's history with Nintendo, the rep added that such news would not be a surprise. E-mails to Nintendo were not returned.

What we heard: Sharp actually stopped by the GameSpot offices to show off its impressive 3D technology, which displays two slightly askew images on a single screen to create the illusion of three dimensions. Apparently someone heard the words "two" and "screen," thought "DS," and started posting away. They might have also remembered the two companies' industry-shattering 1989 collaboration, the Sharp NES TV, and figured one loopy idea warrants another. Still, Nintendo and Sharp's silence could mean they're hiding something--that or they can't be bothered to respond to pesky reporters' idle gossip. It's doubtful that Nintendo could incorporate such premium technology into the DS and keep its price low enough to arouse interest in such a, er, unique system.

Bogus or not bogus?: The thing already has us seeing double. Making it 3D would make millions cockeyed. Bogus.

RUMOR #3: Interplay has regained the rights to Baldur's Gate 3 after settling out of court with D&D license owners Atari.

Source: The increasingly vitriolic Interplay Forums.

The official story: The Atari rep nicely passed our inquires along to another rep who was conveniently out of the office. The only sound out of Interplay's office was of crickets chirping.

What we heard: Last spring, Interplay pulled the plug on Baldur's Gate 3 after Dungeons & Dragons rights-holder Atari rescinded Interplay's license. Even though Interplay sued Atari to get it back, most role-playing gamers assumed BG3 was dead. However, Atari's D&D PC RPG Temple of Elemental Evil earned only a fraction of Baldur's Gate's acclaim and cash. (Its self-developed console title, Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes, flopped outright.) So Atari might be tempted to make nice with the publisher of the most successful D&D series in order to wring more cash out of the D&D license. However, seeing how it fired all the BG3 talent at Black Isle Studios, Interplay would have a tough time turning the half-finished BG3 code into a decent game. Whether or not the rumor is true will be revealed in Interplay's next earnings report, due the last week in February.

Bogus or not bogus?: Hopefully bogus. Let the dear, departed series rest in peace.

RUMOR #4: Sega is prepping Panzer Dragoon Genos, a sequel to the Saturn RPG Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Source: A professional-looking video teaser trailer that briefly surfaced on a German Web site.

The official story: Sega reps said the company currently has no plans to publish any game by that title.

What we heard: During its brief run, the professional-looking trailer showed off what appeared to be some of the game's environments but none of the characters or action. It ended with a title card saying "Panzer Dragoon Genos - 2005." Sources told GameSpot that a group of developers are currently pitching Panzer Dragoon Genos to the powers-that-be at Sega but that the video is unofficial. Like most videos not meant for public viewing, it quickly found its way onto the Internet and was seen by thousands. However, some insiders have speculated that the video was deliberately leaked to start generating buzz.

Bogus or not bogus?: Hard to say. We'll know in 2005.

RUMOR #5: EA has begun development on a game based on the upcoming Halle Berry movie, Catwoman.

Source: Too many to count--apparently this Ms. Berry is rather popular.

The official story: "As you probably already know, EA makes it a policy not to comment on rumors."--Electronic Arts

What we heard: Not much--just that the game will be released this year. However, two facts cast doubt on the story. First, the movie's July 30 release date is only six months away. That's not a lot of time to develop a high-profile film tie-in game, which usually takes at least a year (unless it's Gods and Generals). Secondly, Warner Bros. is financing and distributing Catwoman. Two weeks ago, the studio relaunched its games division--inventively titled Warner Bros. Interactive--with the mission statement that the subsidiary would "focus on the creation, development, production, and distribution of games under the Warner Bros. Games brand." Wouldn't Catwoman be a perfect debut game for the fledgling publisher? Since there's no way it can be finished in time for the movie's marketing blitz, Warner Bros. Interactive could take its time. And lord knows corporations like their synergy...

Bogus or not bogus?: Intitally, we called this one as "bogus," but subsequent events proved us wrong. Rumor control isn't an exact science.

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