Rumor Control: Xbox 2 controllers and visions of the PStwo

This week: A new theory behind what's holding up Duke Nukem and another Half-Life 2 release date to debate.


RUMOR #1: Half-Life 2 will ship in November.

Source: A Wedbush Morgan report issued earlier this week.

The official story: "No comment." --a VU Games spokesperson.

What we heard: Analyst Michael Pachter's report states it clear as day: "We also expect three PC games to break the million-unit threshold in 2004, including...November's Vivendi-Universal (V-Not Rated) release Half-Life 2."

Before asking Vivendi for confirmation, we went to marketing rep Doug Lombardi at Valve. "We're currently planning to send release candidates to Vivendi by September 15," he told us. The timing's right. "However," he adds before we can get our hopes up, "VUG hasn't given us a ship date yet. Might be best for you to ask them directly. Let me know what you hear."

Bogus or not bogus?: GameSpot to Doug: They said, "No comment." Seriously, if they're not telling you, you figure they'd tell us, right? Right? GameSpot to readers: In any case: Not bogus. Happy Thanksgiving.

RUMOR #2: Limited supplies of PS2s in the retail channel are designed to make way for the imminent launch of a redesigned, slimmed-down PStwo.

Source: A post on the engadget forums.

The official story: Sony sent us the following, rather robust, comment.

"It is not our policy to disclose the number of shipments per week, production progress, etc. Any updates on these subjects are included in Sony's quarterly conference calls. I can reaffirm that since the price reduction to $149 in May, we have seen a dramatic increase in consumer demand during a typically slower sales period of the year. We have been actively working to supply the channel with as much product as possible to keep up with demand, and we will continue to communicate with our partners through the remainder of the year as per normal."

What we heard: Sony's been short-shipping PS2 consoles to various retailers recently--the system is sold out on GameStop's home page, and retail employees are noting that their chains are receiving only handfuls of systems at a time, which doesn't jive with the fact that the holidays are right around the corner. So why the slow flow of product? Could it be that the long-rumored "PSTwo," a slimmer, sleeker version of the hardware, will hit this Christmas?

Bogus or not bogus?: Notice how Sony deftly evades the main question. Given the success of the PSone, you gotta believe that they're working on a PStwo. But remember, the redesigned PlayStation was introduced concurrently with the next-gen system. And Sony's being notoriously hard-line on price cuts; they'll want one Christmas with a $149 PS2 before they drop the price. Doing it this year would be jumping the gun. Bogus.

RUMOR #3:: The real reason that Duke Nukem Forever keeps getting delayed is that it is actually a secret project for the US military.

Source: A severely grammatically challenged post on the File Rush forums.

The official story: "What's there to comment on?" --George Broussard.

What we heard: The post tells the following tale: An unspecified branch of the US government, together with the British government, approached 3D Realms in 1996, asking George Broussard and team to design "the most interactive and atmospheric game to be made ever in history" based on the alien landing at Roswell; to be granted access to the real information about Area 51, the 3D Realms staff all signed the biggest NDA ever.

The reason for the game's existence is to get America ready for any possible alien landings so that when little gray men really do land on the White House lawn, we'll all be prepared for them, having played Duke Nukem Forever. But the game needs to be perfect before it gets released, hence all the delays.

Bogus or not bogus?: Considering that Broussard would be quietly assassinated by the Men in Black if he said anything, we can't rely on his comment. We're going with bogus, but only because we don't want the Secret Service knocking on our doors. Now pardon us while we stock up on bottled water.

RUMOR #4: The controller for the Xbox 2 will come with repositioned Start and Select buttons, no more black and white buttons, and the possibility of four trigger buttons.

Source: A now-dead link off of the forums (see captured .jpg above).

The official story: Our first contact with the Fort Knox that is Microsoft PR netted an innocent "Let me check with the folks closer to the product," suggesting the snap was provocative enough to get the Rumor Control juices flowing up Redmond way. A quick recovery shuttled through the ether moments later: "Not that I'm even saying there IS a product." Right...we do know the feeling. Then came a third e-mail flowing from even higher sources in the PR food chain. "Sorry...can't comment on rumors." And an either very astute or red herring-ish "But what do you make of that quarter?" Hmmm...we hadn't thought about that quarter.

What we heard: Not so much what we heard, but what we saw. Skeptics dismiss the controller (on the left) as an obvious "knockoff" controller, maybe from Taiwan. They point to the apparent cheapness of the plastic and lack of a logo. But neither of these are proof. Why would a prototype have a logo, and what else would you knock up a quick design with but the cheapest plastic?

We've never seen a "cheap knockoff" with such good design choices before, either. The controller's smaller; the positioning of the Start and Select buttons is much better; and apparently there's room for two trigger buttons on the back. And we've been told that the Xbox 2 controller will "definitely" have two triggers on both sides (from an informed source). Oh, and the thumbsticks and D pad look like official parts.

And why would any Xbox controller--even a knockoff--be missing two buttons entirely?

Upon further inspection, well, there was no further inspection due to the snap being removed from the live servers...buggy server or some large corporate entity intent on keeping its secrets to itself? And what about that quarter?

Bogus or not bogus?: The quarter is real. The controller, well, when we add it all up, is too. Not bogus.

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