Rumor Control: Xbox Next Patents and Gizmondo Halo

[UPDATE] Also this week: SOCOM III's May deployment date, Xbox Live price hikes, and PETA's favorite game.

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RUMOR #1: Microsoft has registered the Xbox Next's central processor with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Source: the US Patent and Trademark Office by way of Team Xbox.

The official story: "We are, simply, not talking about future generation at this time."--Microsoft rep.

What we heard: Though Microsoft still adamantly refuses to comment on its next-generation console, Team Xbox discovered the company has filed a patent for a "system and method for parallel execution of data generation tasks." The system's diagram (pictured) looks an awful lot like the diagram of the Xbox Next CPU that was allegedly leaked last April. Team Xbox found further proof that the patent--#20040263519, filed on December 30, 2004--was likely for the Xbox Next in the description of how the system worked, which was almost identical to the "procedural synthesis" Microsoft corporate vice president and chief XNA architect J. Allard described in a recent interview. Procedural synthesis will use parallel processors and Microsoft-supplied middleware to create repetitive, three-dimensional environmental objects like trees, freeing up designers to concentrate on gameplay and story. Team Xbox saw this connection as evidence the patent was Xbox Next-related. But, had they looked farther down on the patent description, they would have found definitive proof it was so. There, in black and white, in the "background" portion of the description, is a description of how the patented system will address the "difficulties [that] confront game developers." Subsection four of the background description addresses consoles specifically, saying how the patented system will "transfer of large amounts of data between the processing elements of the game console" (emphasis in the original). So unless Microsoft is planning an extremely revamped version of the current-generation Xbox, this patent shows what's at the core of its next-generation console.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not Bogus.

RUMOR #2: Microsoft is planning a portable version of Halo for…the Gizmondo handheld?!

Source: Rampant rumors on the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, further propagated by

The official story: "I am told Microsoft does have a relationship with the handheld maker, but I can tell you right now the arrangement does not include Halo."--Bungie staffer

What we heard: While GameSpot's editors heard various rumors floating around this week's consumer-tech confab in Las Vegas, one began to gather more momentum than others. Word on the show floor was Florida-based Tiger Telematics would announce it had landed a "major game franchise" for its Gizmondo handheld gaming system during CES. Since the Gizmondo, which is currently only available in Europe, uses the Windows CE operating system, speculation began to mount that Microsoft might use it to get into the handheld wars by releasing a scaled-down version of Halo. Certainly more credible than last year's rumors of a Game Boy Advance Halo, such a deal would be a major boost for the still-marginal Gizmondo, which is expected to hit US shores in April with several high-profile launch titles, including Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL Football. But while there may be a portable Halo someday, it won't be this week. Today, Tiger Telematics revealed the identity of said major game franchise for the Gizmondo--Sonic the Hedgehog. [UPDATE] Late Friday, Halo developer Bungie set the record straight, flatly denying it was making a Gizmondo Halo in its Bungie Weekly What's Update.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.

RUMOR #3: SOCOM III will be released in May.

Source: The booked jobs Web page of WCI Studios, a Los Angeles-based acting workshop.

The official story: Sony Computer Entertainment America reps did not respond to requests for comment.

What we heard: Among the thespians touting their latest gigs on WCI Studios' "I booked it!" page was one with particular interest for gamers. The actor Rob Roy listed the main projects he is currently working on as "NATIONAL ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN: Playstations II (sic) SOCOM II & SOCOM III." While a single mention of "SOCOM III" could be dismissed as a typo, Mr. Roy went on to describe his work on the project in detail: "I’m the technical advisor for Playstations II (sic) SOCOM II release date NOV 2004 and SOCOM III Release date May 2005... I have my own character in the game (“WARDOG”). I was digitized in the fall." While it was widely expected that a new SOCOM would come out this summer, no one was sure of when exactly to expect the next chapter in SCEA and Zipper's popular squad shooter. And while not official, the actor's claim of a May 2005 ship date shouldn't be totally dismissed, since a similarly small-scale Hollywood casting site accidentally released information on Metal Gear Solid 3 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas last year (before Konami and Rockstar got to them, anyway…).

Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus, since it’s already been over a year since the last SOCOM.

RUMOR #4: Microsoft is raising Xbox Live subscription rates later this year.

Source: British Windows-followers

The official story: "This is a rumor and Microsoft doesn't comment on rumors"--Microsoft rep.

What we heard: In what they claim is an exclusive scoop, ActiveWin claims to have gotten hold of the new pricing scheme for Xbox Live…in the UK. According to the site, prices will go up later this year to GBP 65 ($122), with a variety of increased surcharges for changing your gamertag ($4.68), entering tournaments ($4.68), and file sharing ($6.55). Presumably, the price hikes would be mirrored in the US. However, when queried by GameSpot, sources close to the Xbox Live team were quick to shoot down the article. According to said sources, Microsoft has been merely doing "pricing research" in the UK, and no increases are on the horizon. However, with Xbox Live traffic surging thanks to the Halo 2 phenomenon--6.5 million copies sold and counting-Microsoft will eventually raise prices.

Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus for now, but prices will go up eventually.

RUMOR #5: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has honored a video game about saving cows from the slaughterhouse.

Source: The official PETA Web site.

The official story: See below.

What we heard: No, you're not hallucinating. America's highest-profile animal-rights organization has handed one of its Proggies, awards for "people, companies, and organizations that exemplify animal-friendly progress in 21st century culture and commerce," to a video game. The winner was Steer Madness from independent developer Veggie Games. Described as Grand Theft Auto meets Chicken Run, the open-ended third-person-action PC game follows a boisterous bovine abattoir-escapee as he runs around a free-roaming metropolis, rescuing lab animals, befriending baby seals, and (this is not a joke) carjacking tofu trucks. However, unlike most other "message" games, Steer Madness actually has some polish--enough to be an entrant in the 2005 Independent Games Festival, anyway.

Bogus or not bogus?: Not Bogus.

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