Rumor Control: EA moves to Florida and the Revolution's Q4 '06 launch
[UPDATE] This week: Gears of War storms PCs, Spore pulls a 360, and the extinction of the Xbox.
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RUMOR #1: Electronic Arts is moving its operations to Florida.
Source: An openly skeptical article on Kotaku.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Many rumors were spawned amid the bedlam that was E3 2005. According to the scuttlebutt on the show floor, Electronic Arts was planning on shutting down its Redwood Shores headquarters and relocating to Florida. Word was, Sunshine State Governor Jeb Bush had made the Godfather publisher an offer it couldn't refuse in the form of a massive tax break. The most rabid EA-haters cited a different reason for the move--Florida's more employer-friendly labor laws. But while Florida has offered EA incentives in the past to expand its Tiburon Studio, based just outside Orlando, the megapublisher isn't vacating its California digs. EA vice president for corporate communications Jeff Brown told GameSpot straight-up, "We're not moving." A more likely scenario is that EALA would be shut down, perhaps as early as an all-hands meeting called for next Wednesday, with some personnel transferred to EA Tiburon. Kotaku even reported that "EA has already started showing off their EALA office to potential lessees." But this afternoon, the site was forwarded an internal e-mail attributed to EALA chief Neil Young, which called the shutdown rumors "so not true it's laughable." However, Young told Kotaku that he "could not comment" on personnel matters other than to say that EA "remains committed to LA." [UPDATE] Brown followed up with GameSpot to clarify the EALA situation. "There are no plans for overall downsizing in Los Angeles," he said. "By the end of the year, employment there will be neutral or up above current levels."
Bogus or not bogus?: EA Redwood Shores moving? Bogus. EALA shutting down? Bogus.
RUMOR #2: The Nintendo Revolution won't be released until Q4 2006.
Source: An article in the latest issue of UK game-trade magazine, MCV.
The official story: "Nintendo does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Nintendo spokesperson.
What we heard: When it showed off a prototype at its pre-E3 press conference last week, Nintendo openly said that its next-generation console wouldn't arrive until 2006. So the question arose: When in 2006? Sony said it is aiming for a spring release with the PlayStation 3, which left Nintendo in a strategic dilemma. Should it go toe-to-toe with the PS3's launch date, or should it wait until the all-important holiday season to build up a critical mass of launch titles? An article in today's MCV indicates that the company has chosen the latter, as it quotes a "senior Nintendo source" as saying, "We're currently looking at mirroring the DS strategy, so Revolution would release in the US first in November, closely followed by Japan. Then we're looking at March 2007 for PAL territories." If true, the MCV article would mean that the Revolution would hit the market six months after the PS3 and a full year after the Xbox 360, which is hardly an envious place to be.
Bogus or not bogus?: Though nothing is official, given MCV's integrity, this is looking like it's not bogus.
RUMOR #3: Microsoft is planning to cease production of the current-generation Xbox sometime in the near future.
Source: Graphics chipmaker Nvidia's Q1 2005 earnings conference call.
The official story: "We have made no announcements about discontinuation of production and continue to support the channel."--Microsoft corporate spokesperson.
What we heard: In its call, Nvidia revealed that it will stop chip shipments to Microsoft after Q2 2005. "Microsoft has indicated they will not take any more product after Q2," said Nvidia CFO Marvin Burkett, "And more importantly, we have stopped production of the Xbox and expect to have no inventory after Q2." Since Nvidia chips are an essential component of the Xbox, such a move would portent a discontinuation of the console's production, possibly in advance of the Q4 Xbox 360 launch. But although Microsoft reps told GameSpot that we "should not make a correlation between chip production and overall manufacturing," such a move is not implausible. Microsoft has said its new console will be backward compatible, telling GamSpot that its "goal is to have every Xbox game work on Xbox 360." Fully backward-compatible 360s would make current-generation Xboxes unnecessary without shrinking the customer base of current-gen Xbox titles due for release next year. Indeed, discontinuing the Xbox may prove a shrewd marketing move that will funnel gamers into the Xbox 360 pipeline. Michael Pachter, senior analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, told GameSpot, "They aren't leaving profits on the table because they're not making any money on the Xbox hardware. I think what their view is, and I'm guessing because they haven't announced it, is that if they stop making Xboxes, but you like our product, you'll buy the 360. So that will help the 360 installed base to grow more rapidly."
Bogus or not bogus?: Nothing is official yet, but one thing is certain: the current-gen Xbox's days are numbered.
RUMOR #4: Gears of War is coming to the PC as well as to the Xbox 360.
Source: An interview with Microsoft corporate vice president and chief XNA architect J Allard on Eurogamer.net.
The official story: See below.
What we heard: Last week at E3, Epic Games lead designer Cliff Bleszinski told GameSpot that the developer's upcoming tactical sci-fi shooter would be released exclusively for the Xbox 360 in 2006. That seemed clear enough...until Eurogamer asked Allard if Gears of War was console-only. "It's Xbox and PC," replied Allard, sending a wave of hope rippling through the PC gaming community. Unfortunately, Microsoft Game Studios, which is publishing Gears of War, gave GameSpot a statement that will dash many a PC gamer's enthusiasm. "Much like Halo, Microsoft evaluates specific games and franchises with potential to appeal to console and Windows gamers alike," read the statement. "As J notes, there is discussion of bringing Gears of War to Windows gamers, but we do not have additional details to provide at this time." Epic vice president Mark Rein was clearer, talking to BeyondUnreal. "We're developing it specifically to take advantage of the power and features of the  console," he said. "Could we, in the future, adapt Gears for Windows just as Microsoft did with Halo? Sure we could and, as you can see from J Allard's comments, Microsoft is clearly cool with that idea."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus...for now, anyway.
RUMOR #5: Spore is coming to the Xbox 360.
Source: A Joystiq interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
The official story: "It will launch as a PC title. That's all we're talking about now. Hope that helps!"--a friendly rep for Spore publisher Electronic Arts.
What we heard: One of the more exciting games on the horizon--far horizon, esepcially given its 2007 release date--is the ambitious new project from Sims creator Will Wright. The subject of a recent Newsweek article, Spore aims to be the god game to end all god games. It will lets players control every aspect of life, evolution, and civilization, from the first cell swimming around in the primordial muck all the way through interstellar exploration. Obviously, the game will be coming to the PC. But given the Xbox 360's advanced power, the possibility of a next-gen console version is plausible. Apparent confirmation came when Steve Ballmer told Joystiq that the 360 game group wants to make games "which are more interesting. Whether it's a Spore or Kameo, which is a different kind of a game for the console world." (Emphasis added.) But neither Microsoft nor EA would comment on the game, leaving it a tantalizing possibility...for now.
Bogus or not bogus?: If they can port The Sims to the Xbox, they can port Spore to the Xbox 360. The question is: should they?