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Rumor Control: Xbox 2 pictures, Spector defects, and Carmack retires

Also this week: Jade Empire coming to the PC, and the PSX's drastic discounting.


Rumor #1: Concept images of the Xbox 2 have been leaked.

Source: That mecca of gizmo news known as

The official story: Since this broke over the weekend, Microsoft reps could not be reached for comment. But it would probably be a variation on "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."

What we heard: Engadget was sent the pictures in question by an anonymous tipster claiming to be part of a Microsoft focus group. Although he admits the pictures look "questionable," site editor Ryan Block claims he did see other "focus-group material," giving the pics a smidgen of credibility. However, professional-looking images of next-gen consoles are nothing new. Last year, a sleek-looking picture of a "PS3" turned out to be a French designer's mock-up. But even if they're fake, the next-gen Xbox designs are interesting, as each has a different name and logo. The first, creatively dubbed "Xbox 2," has a sleek, silver case reminiscent of a giant iPod. The second looks much more durable--almost industrial--and features a handle similar to the GameCube's (which would've been nice for Halo LAN parties…two years ago). Also interesting are the unusual ports in the front of the machine, which could be for the high-capacity flash memory cards the device is rumored to be using. The width of the disc drive means the console would also be considerably smaller than the original Xbox, something Microsoft Japan's Xbox division chief, Yoshihiro Maruyama, has said is a certainty. Its name--"Xbox FS"--is also of note, since it has been previously mentioned as a moniker for the console. But what does "FS" stand for? Speculation on the Gaming Age forums ranged from "Future System" to "F*** Sony."

Bogus or not bogus?: Almost certainly bogus. Does anyone really think Microsoft would let a focus-group member walk away with pictures of the next Xbox?

Rumor #2: Warren Spector will head up Midway's new game development studio in Austin, Texas.

Source: A tip to GameSpot News from a well-placed source in the Austin game community.

The official story: "I am still an Eidos employee."--Warren Spector, via e-mail.

What we heard: According to a deep-pocketed investor and advisor we spoke with on the Austin Games Conference show floor, Warren Spector has decided to leave the Eidos-funded Ion Storm (Thief: Deadly Shadows, Deus Ex: Invisible War) to head up Midway's new studio in Austin. Given the trouble at Eidos, it isn't too much of a surprise that the seven-year veteran might defect to a more-secure outfit. Eidos has made the news for all the wrong reasons: The company just lost its US president, Rob Dyer, and for months its board has let it be known that it will entertain buyout offers. On the other hand, Midway has been on a hiring binge for months, adding creative noteworthies John Romero and Tom Hall to its roster and hiring marketing whiz Steve Allison to be its chief marketing officer. But is moving to Midway really a move up? If Viacom buys the publisher and floods it with cash, it may very well be.

Bogus or not bogus?: Today: It's bogus. A Warren Spector denial is a denial. Tomorrow: Far stranger things have happened.

Rumor #3: id Software game guru John Carmack is retiring.

Source: Chris Morris' Game Over column on CNN/Money.

The official story: "I wouldn't hazard to look too far ahead."--The man himself, to Morris.

What we heard: Essential reading for industry watchers, Morris' column often contains exclusives many game journalists would trade vital parts of their anatomy for. However, the column also sparks plenty of rumors, and this week is no exception. In an interview with Morris, Carmack expressed his increasing disillusionment with programming. "I'm definitely going to see through this round of rendering work," he said, referring to id's unnamed next title. "I wouldn't make any promises beyond that." But while they launched a thousand forum posts, these comments are nothing new. His Carmackness has publicly remarked numerous times that he's weary of the game grind. (He's even going to stop blowing up rockets.) At least we're guaranteed one more game before he rides off into the history books.

Bogus or not bogus?: Eventually not bogus.

Rumor #4: Jade Empire is coming to the PC.

Source: French game site

The official story: "We are exploring the idea of a PC version."--BioWare co-CEO Ray Muzyka.

What we heard: While at the European Developers Forum--the GDCE wannabe that ran alongside Game Stars Live! and EGN in London last week--Muzyka talked to Sanqualis about Jade Empire. Naturally, he was asked whether, like Knights of the Old Republic, the currently Xbox-only RPG would come to the PC. "We're certainly interested in the idea," he said. "We own the IP, and we're interested in developing for the PC." Muzyka then dispelled any notion that Microsoft, eager for Xbox exclusives, would pay BioWare to keep Jade Empire solely on its console. "Microsoft's interested too," he said, all but sealing the deal. "But until it's officially announced, it's not something I can confirm or deny."

Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. It's just a matter of time.

RUMOR #4: The PSX's retail price has been cut nearly in half in Japan.

Source: British game news site

The official story: American Sony reps declined comment.

What we heard: As is its MO, did not identify the source of the "reports" that said Japanese retailers slashed the PSX's price. According to said reports, the 160GB DESR-5000 PSX is selling for 39,800 yen ($362.92), down from its current MSRP of 74,000 yen ($674.78). The higher-end 250GB DESR-7000 is going for 52,900 yen ($482.38), versus its original 95,000 yen ($866.27) sticker price. GameSpot correspondents in Japan did confirm such discounting was occurring, but only in a handful of independent discount shops that specialize in dirt-cheap merchandise (read: stuff that fell of the back of a truck). However, it is true that the PSX--which has sold so poorly Sony has stopped its production--is on sale across Japan, though usually for the less-drastic sale prices of 59,800 yen ($545.29) for the 160GB model and 79,800 yen ($727.67) for the 250GB model. One thing is for certain: Sony's once-high aspirations for the PSX have fallen to a new low.

Bogus or not bogus?: Technically not bogus.

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