Rumor Control: Bungie resurrects Phoenix, and DS launch titles get halved

This week: Nintendo apologizes to purveyors of porn, and Mario Kart DS becomes a launch title in the US.


RUMOR #1: The Nintendo DS will only launch with five titles.

Source: A press release from Ubisoft reannouncing several DS titles.

The official story: "[Nintendo] will only confirm when the system (including PictoChat and the Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo) will ship and when Super Mario 64 DS will ship."--Nintendo of America spokesperson.

What we heard: As is often the case with game PR, publishers will send out press releases reannouncing games to remind the world of their existences. Case in point: Last night, Ubisoft issued a risqué e-mail titled "Ubisoft brings menage-a-trois to Nintendo DS launch party" to jog memories that Rayman DS, Sprung, and Asphalt Urban GT will be among the first games released for Nintendo's handheld. However, one line in the announcement stood out: "Asphalt Urban GT is one of only five launch-day titles." Casual readers of the e-mail not fond of "Nintendrones" quickly got on forums and began to spread word that the DS would launch with only five games, which is half the 10 to 12 titles Nintendo announced just last month at its official DS conference in Seattle. While it is true that only six titles will arrive on store shelves simultaneously with the DS--Asphalt GT, Spider-Man 2, Madden NFL 2005, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Urbz: Sims in the City DS, and Super Mario 64 DS--they won't be lonely for long. Had those forum-posters read the entire Ubisoft e-mail, they would've seen that Rayman DS and Sprung will also arrive in the official DS "launch window," which is by the end of 2004. And, according to the DS product page on EB Ggames, they'll be joined by four other games--Ping Pals, Ridge Racer, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 DS, and Zoo Keeper DS--before the holidays.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #2: Bungie's next project will be Phoenix, the project it abandoned to work on Halo 2.

Source: All-purpose pop-culture reference Entertainment Weekly.

The official story: "Microsoft is focused on “Halo 2. No announcement has been made for Bungie’s next project.”--Microsoft rep.

What we heard: This week's issue of EW features the article "Hooray for Halo-wood," written Geoff Keighley, who is also the author of the upcoming GameSpot feature "The Final Hours of Half-Life 2," which debuts next Friday. In it, he speaks to Joe Staten, the 34-year-old author of Halo and Halo 2's complex scenarios. With studio manager Pete Parsons already saying that Halo 3 will not be Bungie's next project, Keighley asked Staten what the developer had in the pipeline. According to Keighley, Staten said the company was “busy at work on several projects, including the possible resurrection of Phoenix, a non-sci-fi project that Bungie spent two years on before putting it aside to finish Halo 2.” Little is known about Phoenix, which was to be Bungie's first post-Halo project, other than an archive of the game's artwork on fan site Given the secrecy that surrounds Bungie's bunkerlike offices on the Microsoft campus, it's unlikely anyone will know what the Halo maker's next game is until the company lets us know. But then again, two years' worth of work is not easily discarded….

Bogus or not bogus?: They said "possible resurrection." Make of that what you will.

RUMOR #3: Mario Kart DS will launch alongside the DS in the US on November 21.

Source: UK-based Eurogamer.

The official story: "Nintendo does not comment on rumors or speculation."--a shocking admission from Nintendo.

What we heard: As is often the case, Eurogamer draws in readers--and starts forum threads--with provocative headlines, such as "Mario Kart joins US DS launch line-up." However, as is often the case, the article below feels like a bit of a bait and switch. "Mario Kart DS has been given a firm launch date, with Nintendo today announcing that the title will debut in Japan on December 2nd, with its US release following on January 10th." That's all well and good, except for one thing: The DS launches in the US on November 21, which is two months before the alleged release of Mario Kart. So if even if the January 10 release date were true, it could hardly be considered a "launch title." Even then, sources close to Nintendo of America said the game still has no firm Japanese or American release date. "Until NCL [Nintendo Company Ltd.] announces it in Japan, it's still a rumor," said the source. So unless NCL has an eleventh-hour surprise in store, don't expect any dual-screen, kart-on-kart action anytime soon.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #4: Nintendo has issued an official apology to a pornography site.

Source: Good ol' Brit gamesters Spong, who are always good for a laugh (or two).

The official story: See below.

What we heard: Several weeks ago, Nintendo of America issued a cease and desist order to, a softcore pornography site that specializes in amateur pictures of tattooed, pierced, and naked punk rock women. Apparently, each woman on the site has a profile where she lists her interests. One particular member named RuneLateralus, a self-described "computer animation student and video game addict," mentioned Metroid and Zelda as her favorite video games. Somehow, a member of NOA's legal department got wind of this and issued the aforementioned order, saying the mention of the two games was “unauthorized use of Nintendo trademark works.” After two weeks of widespread derision among gamers, including a hilarious Penny Arcade strip, Nintendo officials confirmed to GameSpot that the company had withdrawn the order and issued a formal apology to in general, and RuneLateralus in particular. "We would like to apologize to you and to those who frequent the website for inadvertently contacting you about a fan posting on the website," read the letter. "The letter was sent as part of an ongoing Nintendo program to aggressively protect our younger consumers from the hundreds of sexually-explicit sites each year that use Nintendo properties to attract children…Unfortunately, the site posting identified in our letter was targeted by mistake." This story even has a happy ending. "As a gesture of goodwill," NOA is offering both the administrator and RuneLateralus "a free Nintendo video game system and game of [his or her] choice."

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus.

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