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Rumor Control: Nintendo Revolution rumor explosion!

This week: March 2006 launch! Dual controllers! Gyroscopes! Touch screens! Blurry teaser posters! Densely written patent law!

more screens (8)
more screens (8)

RUMOR #1: A patent for the Revolution's gyroscopic, LCD-touch-screen-enabled controller has been uncovered.

Source: Our friends across the Atlantic at HM-Fusion and GamesRadar...who have since updated their story.

The official story: "Nintendo recently released information about Revolution at this year's E3 and has not announced any information since then. We will be divulging more details about our next console in the future. Only information released from Nintendo should be considered accurate."--Nintendo spokesperson.

What we heard: This particular rumor fired up just as the week was winding down, when GamesRadar pounced on the HM-Fusion-spotted listing for a Nintendo patent (US Patent 6,908,388; last updated on June 21, 2005). The patent reads, "[The] object of the present invention is to provide a game system and a game program allowing a player to feel as if a three-dimensional game space is tilted in accordance with a tilt of a game device." The patent goes on to describe that the player's in-game viewpoint is controlled by "a tilt sensor provided on the housing [of a controller] for generating output signals." So, in essence, the tilt sensor turns the controller into one giant joystick that manipulates the onscreen camera angle without the use of a thumbstick. The patent also mentions a "liquid crystal display...and a plurality of operation switches provided on both sides of the LCD." These include the familiar D pad and start, select, A, B, right shoulder, and left shoulder buttons--but not the GameCube controller's left and right thumbsticks.

Citing the above as evidence, GamesRadar logically--and honestly--came to the following conclusion. "The controller for Nintendo's upcoming Revolution console will feature gyroscopic, tilt-sensitive technology, an LCD touch screen, and a greatly reduced number of face buttons, according to documentation on the US patent website," read the UK site's initial story.

There's just one problem--the drawings filed with the patent clearly show a pre-SP GBA, (identified as "handheld game device 10" or "14") hooked up to a GameCube (identified as "game device 40"), as seen in Figure 1 of the patent illustrations. So Patent 6,908,388 is clearly not for the Revolution's controller, as GamesRadar at first claimed. In fact, the LCD screen and buttons it describes clearly belong to the GBA (Figure 2), not any futuristic hybrid of a Wavebird and DS. (Also, nowhere in the patent is touch-screen functionality mentioned.)

That said, Patent 6,908,388 could show some technology that might appear in the Revolution's controller. Looking past all the legal doublespeak, the main feature of the patent is the tilt sensor, later identified as the "acceleration sensor," which can be inserted into a GBA via a cartridge (Figure 4). But before you start shouting "Yoshi Topsy-Turvy" or "WarioWare: Twisted!" the acceleration sensor described in the patent is also not for 2D games. The patent--which was first filed on May 19, 2003--describes the acceleration sensor as being different from any "conventional technique used for controlling a two-dimensional game image," since that technique "cannot be adapted to a three-dimensional game image which has become prevalent as a game image... Therefore, an object of the present invention is to provide a game system and a game program allowing a player to feel as if a three-dimensional game space is tilted in accordance with a tilt of a game device."

Diagrams of how the device will work show that the acceleration sensor will truly be able to control action in all three dimensions when inserted into the GBA or in an external display. Even more interesting is Figure 17, the last drawing showing the device. It shows a standard GameCube with a controller that is equipped with the acceleration sensor internally in its front. "The controller 90 also includes an Acceleration Sensor 93 in the housing 90 [the controller]," reads the description. "Thus, when the controller 90 is held and tilted by the player, a value corresponding to a tilt of the controller 90 is output to the game device 40 [The GameCube]."

Clearly, Patent 6,908,388 shows that players will be able to manipulate a three-dimensional in-game character by physical, real-world movement of a Nintendo handheld or Nintendo console controller either on a portable's LCD display or on a television screen. Since this has been seen only in two-dimensional games so far, it appears that even though the patent shows a GameCube and GBA, the acceleration sensor is something gamers haven't gotten their hands on--yet.

Bogus or not bogus? Bogus. Patent 6,908,388 is not the Revolution controller, though without the illustrations, that mistake would be all too easy to make. But it wouldn't be surprising if the acceleration sensor were incorporated into Nintendo's next-generation plans in some way.

RUMOR #2: Pictures of the Nintendo Revolution controller have been leaked.

Source: Originally somewhere in Asia, but surfaced on many Western Web sites, including

The official story: "Nintendo does not comment on rumors or speculation."--Nintendo rep.

What we heard: Before the patent surpassed it, the hot Revolution controller rumor of the week stemmed from what appeared to be a Japanese-language sell sheet explaining the device--or, more accurately, devices. The supposed sell sheet shows not one but two vaguely egglike controllers, one for each hand. Each has a directional control on top, with a D pad on the right controller and a thumbstick on the left. On the bottom of both controllers are three raised buttons, presumably for various in-game functions. At the top of the sell sheet is the official Nintendo logo, while at the bottom is a picture of the Revolution itself. Given the semiprofessional layout, it would be easy to believe that the sell sheet is real...if you didn't speak Japanese. "It's totally fake," said GameSpot Tokyo correspondent Hirohiko Niizumi. "Whoever doctored it up apparently didn't have much understanding of Japanese."

Bogus or not bogus? Bogus.

RUMOR #3: A leaked teaser poster for the Nintendo Revolution reveals it will launch in March 2006.

Source: A slew of forums that trace back to Japanese game site Quiter.

The official story: US Nintendo reps declined to comment on the poster.

What we heard: One of the few facts Nintendo has made official about the Revolution this month is that it will ship in 2006. However, that 365-day release window has sparked much speculation. Since the company divulged so few details at its E3 press conference, the majority opinion was that the console is not very far along in development and will probably launch in Q4 2006. That said, some industry insiders believe it may ship sooner than expected. The latter theory got some additional ammo this week, when what looks like a Revolution teaser poster hit the Web. Written in English, the all-black poster bears the tagline "THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX," over the sentences, "A NEW EXPERIENCE IS COMING" and "THE REVOLUTION STARTS MARCH 2006." Underneath is an outline of the Revolution's distinctive front, with the control buttons below the DVD drive's long blue LED--the same blue as the words "BOX" and "REVOLUTION." At the poster's bottom is the official seal of approval, a red-and-white Nintendo logo. While professional looking, the poster does raise a few red flags. Its design looks eerily reminiscent of the PlayStation 3 teaser posters Sony posted at E3, and its uninspired tagline could be thought up by an ad-agency intern. It's a little obvious, even for Nintendo. But if the poster is legit, then the Revolution will likely ship before the PlayStation 3's "spring 2006" launch, implying a Q2 release. It would also mean that Nintendo could soon stage a surprise demonstration of the power of its fully operational next-gen console, blindsiding skeptics and energizing the faithful. But unless you're a devout Nintendo fan, one image isn't enough to go on, even though such a scenario would further liven up an already exciting 2005.

Bogus or not bogus? We'll see in the coming months.

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