Rumor Control: Next-gen Starcraft: Ghost and the Xbox 360

This week: Microsoft stays out of the Blu-ray fray, Command and Conquer DS, and development starts on Diablo III.

more screens (2)
more screens (2)

RUMOR #1: Starcraft: Ghost will now be released for next-generation consoles.

Source: The product catalog that comes with World of Warcraft.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: While killing time waiting to log on, World of Warcraft players have been known to grab any reading material around. However, it was only recently that gamers discovered something exciting in the box the massively multiplayer online role-playing phenomenon came in. Inside the product catalog that ships with the game is an advertisement for Blizzard's upcoming console outing Starcraft: Ghost. The game summary on page four features the following words, "COMING SOON to NEXT GENERATION CONSOLES." If true, the listing (pictured) would seem to indicate that Swingin' Ape, the developer that took over the long-delayed actioner last July, was restarting the project from scratch, hoping to ride the wave of next-gen launch titles. However, according to Blizzard, the listing is erroneous. "It is not coming to next-generation consoles," said a spokesperson. "It is currently slated for the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2." Questions about why the product listing would say "next generation" in the first place went largely unanswered. "The catalog hasn't been updated," was all the Blizzard rep would say.

Bogus or not bogus?: Officially bogus, unofficially probable.

RUMOR #2: Microsoft's next-generation console will be called the "Xbox 360."

Source: Followers of all things shiny and electronic,

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation"--Microsoft spokesperson.

What we heard: A wellspring for interesting (if unsubstantiated) tidbits, Engagdet cites a "trusted source" as having revealed the name for Microsoft's next-gen console, complete with logo (see screen index). Furthermore, the source also explained the rationale behind the arguably lackluster moniker. "Apparently Microsoft was worried that calling their new console the 'Xbox 2' would make it seem older or less 'cutting-edge' than the PlayStation 3," said the site. Engadget also cited a 2004 study that compared the "Xbox 360" to its rival next-consoles' possible names: "PlayStation 3" and "Nintendo N5." However, it didn't mention reports of another 2004 marketing study that reportedly tested consumer reactions to three versions of a console called the Xbox Next, currently the most common name applied to Microsoft's next-gen console. However, the software colossus is staying mum for the moment, so there's little but gut feeling to go on.

Bogus or not bogus?: Given the popularity of "Xbox Next" and the fact "Xbox 360" sounds like some kind of snowboarding trick, we'll go with "probably bogus."

RUMOR #3: The next-generation Xbox will use neither the Blu-ray nor the HD-DVD disc formats.

Source: Online tech-dope muckraker The Inquirer.

The official story: "Microsoft does not comment on speculation or rumors. (You see what I did there? I switched the order of 'rumors' and 'speculation.') "--Microsoft spokesperson.

What we heard: Although it jokingly says it received the tip from an anonymous source "in a soggy brown envelope anonymously delivered through our door by untraceable carrier pigeon," the Inquirer article does seriously suggest that rather than support either of the two new high-capacity formats, Microsoft will stick with plain ol' DVDs as its media medium. The reason? "To keep the costs of the system and its games down," according to The Inquirer's source. As thin as this theory is, it does have some weight to it. For one, Microsoft loses money on every Xbox sold, and it's been rumored to be taking drastic steps (that is, ditching the hard drive in favor of high-capacity flash cards) to keep the cost of its next-gen system down. Secondly, with a console generation life span of around four to five years, a high-capacity format drive may not be necessary. Currently, even the most graphic-intensive PC games currently on the market can fit on a 4.7GB DVD. Doom 3 came on just three CDs (approximately 2GB), while Far Cry came on five (approx. 3.25GB). The record belongs do Everquest II, which came on a whopping 10 CDs (approx. 6.5GB). However, games that size could simply come on two discs, like the best-selling Resident Evil 4. (Note: GameCube discs only hold 1.5GB per disc.) Then there's the question of the two new formats. Blu-ray is being heavily backed by Sony, so it would seem unlikely that Microsoft would help its archrival spread its chosen format. But if the company selected HD-DVD for the Xbox Next, it would be picking sides in a format war where there is no clear favorite. And everyone knows Bill Gates does not like to lose...

Bogus or not bogus?: Possible, but still too early to call.

RUMOR #4: Electronic Arts is readying a version of Command and Conquer for the Nintendo DS.

Source: Dutch game-enthusiast site Sen Gamer.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: When the DS came out, many remarked how the dual screens would be perfect for a strategy game, with one screen giving an overview of the battlefield and another showing the carnage up close. These hopes were confirmed when Intelligent Systems said it was bringing its popular Advance Wars series to the DS with just such a view. This week, pocket generals were further excited by the rumor on Sen Gamer that EA was working on a version of its best-selling Command and Conquer series for the dual-screen portable. "I daydreamed how cool it would be if I could give [C&C] troops commands with my finger," wrote author Marcel van der List. "Thanks to the creative brains at the Japanese company Nintendo, the creator of the Nintendo DS portable game system, my dream has become reality." Sen Gamer also includes a crude mock-up of the game, showing what looks like Tiberan Sun screenshots Photoshopped onto a DS publicity shot. Great idea? Absolutely. Totally bogus? Apparently. A source inside EA close to Command and Conquer's development team flatly denied the rumor. "This is false," said the source. Looks like handheld strategy fans will have to wait until Advance Wars DS comes out this fall to start seeing double.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #5: Blizzard is hiring developers for Diablo III.

Source: A job listing on Blizzard's Web site.

The official story: "We can't comment. Sorry!"--A nice-but-reticent Blizzard rep.

What we heard: While many people consider the hack-and-slash-happy World of Warcraft to be Diablo's spiritual successor, that hasn't stopped rumors about an outright sequel from circulating. That speculation spiked this week when Blizzard posted a job listing for "an experienced Game Designer to help lead the team that designed Diablo and Diablo II." Besides the requisite experience, Blizzard would like said designer to have "Experience working on RPG titles." Given that description, the Diablo III theory would seem like a logical conclusion, even though Blizzard won't even acknowledge the game's existence. But given the Diablo series' legendary status, development of a new installment would seem to be an inevitability, if not already an open secret.

Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus.

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