Rumor Control: The GTA/PStwo bundle speculation frenzy

Also this week: Xbox 2 backward compatibility and Halo 2 four-way co-op (or lack thereof).


RUMOR #1: Sony will release the PStwo, a scaled-down version of the PlayStation 2, on October 26.

Source: Sources running the gamut from Reuters to SPOnG.

The official story: "Sony has not announced any new product line and any reports saying such are pure speculation."--Sony spokesperson.

What we heard: This week there were reports galore that Sony will release a scaled-down version of the PlayStation 2 in a matter of weeks. Some sites even went so far as to predict the machine's design will be similar to the Sony DVP-F41MS DVD player (pictured), which is about three quarters the current PS2's size. But while there has been talk of a reworked PStwo for weeks, all the recent reports trace back to one report by American Technology Research analyst PJ McNealy. Released last Friday, that report stated there was a possibility that the PStwo would launch October 26 because "October 26 is also the four-year anniversary of the launch of the PS2 in North America, and Sony is very fond of making announcements or launches near or on anniversaries."

The McNealy report was then cited in a Hollywood Reporter article, which was in turn quoted by Reuters, and then republished on dozens of game sites. However, just as the PStwo's October 26 launch was being cited as fact by many news outlets, a subsequent McNealy report reminded the public that he had only said there would be a "possibility [that] a PStwo launch in Japan could be announced" at next week's Sony executive meeting in Japan.

Bogus or not bogus?: Eventually not bogus. Given that Sony has trademarked "PStwo," it's just a matter of time until a device arrives, and that time may be sooner rather than later…(see below)

RUMOR #2: The PStwo is being bundled with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Source: The same PJ McNealy report that started the previous rumor.

The official story: "The company has no comment about this issue."--Rockstar spokesperson.

What we heard: Although it spawned the PStwo rumor, the intention of McNealy's report was to advise American Technology Research customers to buy stock in Take-Two Interactive. One of the big reasons was the impending release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which, barring an asteroid strike, will be the year's top best-seller. Reassuring investors following San Andreas' recent delay, McNealy said "the game is on track and will now come out a week later, October 26. We believe this launch may coincide with the launch of a new version of the PlayStation 2, called the PStwo." This hypothesis was expanded on by the Hollywood Reporter, which said a simultaneous release of GTA and the PStwo would be a "one-two punch" against the Xbox. That, in turn, sparked forum posters to say the two would be bundled together--a dream package for anyone who doesn't yet own Sony's console. Such a move would certainly make sense for Sony, given that Xbox sales surged 50 percent in August while PS2 sales fell two percent, not to mention the huge boost Halo 2's release will give Microsoft's console. However, nothing is official yet, although that may change at next Tuesday's Sony executive meeting.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus…for now.

RUMOR #3: Microsoft will use an emulator from a Silicon Valley start-up to make the Xbox 2 backward compatible.

Source: A Wired News article.

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

What we heard: When it went up Monday with the headline "Step Toward Universal Computing," the Wired article highlighted the general applications of QuickTransit, a universal emulator from the Los Gatos-based Transitive Corporation. However, it was comments by Transitive CEO Bob Wiederhold that put the gaming community in a tizzy. According to Wired reporter Leander Kahney, "Wiederhold said QuickTransit will allow the next-generation Xbox (which will have a Mac-like PowerPC chip) to run first-generation Xbox software (which was written for an Intel chip)." But had Kahney used "would" instead of "will" in his article, a lot of fuss could have been avoided. "Mr. Wiederhold was speaking hypothetically," a Transitive spokesperson told GameSpot. "He specifically stated that any manufacturers he mentioned were only used as examples but [he] did NOT imply any relationships with any of the named companies." (Emphasis in the original.)

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #4: Halo 2 will have four-player co-op.

Source: Halo-makers

The official story: "There's two player co-op, but that's it."--Bungie statement.

What we heard: The good folks at Bungie were kind enough to do some of Rumor Control's legwork this week, shooting down several rumors about their upcoming Xbox shooter. Their handy "RumorBuster" feature shot down some scuttlebutt that: there would be bots in multiplayer games (nope); dual-wielding of two-handed weapons (uh-uh); and online update to make the original Halo playable on Xbox Live (nein). They also took the time to clarify that there would be no four-player co-op in Halo 2. While saying that four-person co-op would be a "totally cool idea," Bungie said the four-way split-screen was such a "mess," that they opted to stick with the first Halo's two-man limit. Ironically, Bungie has no problem with Halo 2 "support[ing] up to four players per split-screen" in multiplayer mode. Go figure.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

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