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What we heard: The critically acclaimed Heavy Rain is apparently getting prepped for the big screen, but that may not be the only place Quantic Dream's moody thriller is headed. Rumors have started swirling that the PlayStation 3 exclusive is possibly headed to the PC, following a listing on graphics hardware maker Nvidia's own site.
A listing of current and upcoming titles that support hardware acceleration using Nvidia's PhysX engine shows Heavy Rain as one of its compatible titles but identifies the PC as the platform it appears on.
While the possibility of Heavy Rain dropping its exclusivity and heading to PCs is intriguing, several factors point to this not being the case. Firstly, the accuracy of Nvidia's list is questionable, with the site still listing the defunct Xbox 360 version of Haze and the discontinued massively multiplayer online game Fury as two of its compatible titles. Quantic Dream also used the Havok engine for Heavy Rain, and studio head David Cage has often stated in the past that the interactive drama would remain a PS3-only proposition.
The official story: "We checked with the PhysX team and learned that it is a typo. Should be PS3." -- An Nvidia representative, who also confirmed that Heavy Rain did use PhysX at one time for an E3 demo shown several years ago but that Quantic Dream eventually switched to using Havok.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus.
Source: UK gaming magazine Edge.
What we heard: Microsoft isn't likely to make any official statements regarding the launch of Project Natal for the Xbox 360 until June 13, when it will hold a "world premiere" for the device as part of the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo. However, thanks to seemingly unauthorized statements made by Microsoft's Saudi Arabian marketing manager, the current plan appears to be to launch the camera-based motion-sensing add-on in October.
Today, that launch window seems to have gained a bit more support, along with a potential price point. Citing an industry source, Edge reported today that Microsoft intends to roll out Natal worldwide on October 26, a Tuesday. Edge's source noted that the date has yet to be 100 percent nailed down and may be advanced or retreated by a handful of weeks.
Interestingly, the source also stated that Microsoft intends to sell the peripheral as a stand-alone unit for $150 in the US. However, that figure clashes with a previous rumor, which indicated that Microsoft planned to position Natal as an "impulse buy" with a £50 ($72) price point.
As for bundles, Edge's source said Microsoft also intends to pack in Natal with the hard drive-less Xbox 360 Arcade SKU for $299, a $100 premium over the console's current price point. However, this tidbit of information is also questionable, considering analysts are expecting a new, slimmer 250GB Xbox 360 to ship out later this year at the $299 price point--with Natal included.
The official story: Microsoft had not responded to requests for comment as of press time. However, it is unlikely the publisher will deviate from its tried-and-true mantra, "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation."
Bogus or not bogus?: Leaning not bogus. Considering that Natal will include such complex technology as voice recognition, facial recognition, and three-dimensional real-time motion sensing, it seems more likely that the $150 price point is more accurate than the essentially giveaway £50 speculative MSRP. However, don't expect it to be priced much higher, as Microsoft must keep the price down if it hopes to attract mass-market consumers, a primary target of the new device.
Source: The Green Day: Rock Band demo launched today on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
What we saw: On exiting the demo for Green Day: Rock Band, gamers are presented with a couple of screens of ads to encourage full-game purchases. The final one (pictured below) seems to be a teaser for the upcoming Rock Band 3, with a number of the series' trademark icons next to a numeral 3. Alongside those for guitar, bass, and drums is one featuring three microphones and one that seems to represent a keyboard. The multi-mic logo points to the inclusion of three-part harmony vocals in the next game, a carryover from last year's Beatles: Rock Band, but the keyboard icon is a bit more surprising.
Keyboard peripherals have long been rumoured for both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. Speaking in 2009, Harmonix cofounder Alex Rigopulos said the possibility for adding a keyboard was being examined, but was "a maybe."
Earlier than that, in August 2008, Neversoft project director Brian Bright said, "A keyboard controller deserves to be introduced with its own game. This is something we're thinking about." While Keyboard Hero was trademarked by Activision in May 2006, a Hero-branded keyboard game has yet to emerge.
"There are reasons why we haven't included a keyboard controller," Bright said at the time. "Not all of our songs have keyboard parts, so we didn't want someone to come into a game, pick up the keyboard controller, and then have nothing to do in any of the songs that are selected. We wanted a big mix of music in World Tour, and adding a keyboard controller would either have limited our choices, or the players'."
The official story: EA reps had not responded to requests for comment at press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Almost certainly not bogus. The icon in the teaser image definitely shows a keyboard and refers to Rock Band 3, and while official confirmation has yet to be made, it is a very strong indication from EA that a keyboard peripheral is coming in time for the holidays.
Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group of companies, is being tipped to return to games with an announcement next month. According to a report by British industry trade magazine MCV, the entrepreneur will attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June to launch a new product: an online-only service that is set to partner with leading publishers and content owners.
MCV reports that Branson's new business is expected to run across the "leading console formats," including "Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, as well as multiplayer PC gaming." The new venture will also feature the "most popular games on the market," according to the magazine, and will be "challenge-based." The service described by MCV sounds similar to the one Branson announced in 2007 called A World of My Own, which sells downloadable games and is currently remains in beta.
Branson's Virgin Games label was a successful venture in the mid-to-late 1980s, publishing games across the majority of major PC and console platforms. The brand was renamed Virgin Interactive in 1994 and published Disney games, such The Lion King and The Jungle Book, as well as the original Command & Conquer.
Virgin's assets were sold off to various companies in the late 1990s, with its British studios acquired in a management buyout, US developer Westwood going to EA, and the remaining assets snapped up by French publisher--and bankrupt Interplay parent--Titus Software. The Virgin Games brand now exists in the form of an online casino, poker, and bingo portal. With BT teaming up with OnLive in the UK, and Virgin Media offering similar services in that market, there's plenty of scope for Branson to want to get back into the industry.Check out GameSpot's E3 2010 coverage for more on this story as it develops, as well as full coverage of the show starting June 13.
What we heard: On May 11, Electronic Arts announced that Dante's Inferno had sold over 1 million units since its release in February. With the tepidly reviewed game still a fixture on the game-rental charts, it shouldn't be terribly surprising that word of a sequel to the literary classic-inspired action game began to spread this week.
The source of the speculation is a job posting on Gamasutra for an open position at Visceral Games, the internal shop set up at EA's Redwood Shores campus last year. It is for an environment artist on "the sequel to a major new IP" that the EA Games label is "100% committed to." The listing promises that the "sequel will set new quality standards and make the franchise the world leader in the action/melee-combat genre."
While there's plenty of hand-to-hand head-bashing that goes on in Dead Space, it seems unlikely that the game described is Dead Space 2. For one, Dead Space 2 was announced last December, and Visceral developers are actively promoting it--meaning the project is hardly shrouded in secrecy. Also, the sequel was confirmed as recently as last week to be coming out on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. The job listing for the unnamed game is for a developer with experience on the 360 and PS3, the two consoles that Dante's Inferno was released for. (A PSP version followed in March.) No mention is made of the PC.
Second is the listing's emphasis on the "action/melee-combat" genre. In Dead Space marketing materials, EA refers to Dead Space and its follow-up as "survival horror" titles and emphasizes its use of ranged weaponry to dismember ghoulish necromorphs. By contrast, the product description of Dante's Inferno plays up the "intense melee combat" of the God of War-like game.
The official story: EA reps had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. Most games that go platinum get sequels, and EA--which posted a $677 million annual loss last Tuesday--needs all the hits it can get.
Source: A report on VG247.
What we heard: The VG247 article cites "a highly placed source" with the tidbit that Sony will unveil a PlayStation Network subscription plan at next month's Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. According to the article, the service will carry an annual cost less than £50 ($72). For that money, subscribers will get a premium package apparently centered on one free PSN game per month (from a choice of up to four different titles) and access to a streaming music application that will also be unveiled at E3.
Speculation in the article suggests that the streaming audio service would be able to run in the background while users played games. One feature that will apparently not be exclusive to subscribers is cross-game voice chat. The VG247 source emphasized that Sony won't "gimp" its free PSN service in order to attract subscribers to the premium offering.
Sony first revealed its plans for a subscription-based PSN service last November. At the time, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai released a statement confirming that the current level of PSN service (including online multiplayer and connection to services like Netflix and Facebook) would remain free.
So if Sony isn't charging for online play, what can it expect gamers to shell out for, especially with an annual £50 fee? At a price like that, something amounting to a Game-of-the-Month club might be the only real option Sony has. Even then, without must-have features and assurances that gamers will get their money's worth, a premium PSN subscription sounds like the sort of option that's easily ignored. And if Sony actually comes through with those killer features, won't standard PSN users feel like their service has been gimped regardless?
The official story: "We don't discuss rumors or speculation."--A Sony representative.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus that Sony's already said it would have a premium PSN subscription and that it will be less than £50 annually. As for the rest, Sony should shed a little light on that at E3.
Source: A Kotaku article citing a source close to Raven Software reports that the studio has stopped development on two future projects in order to work on a Call of Duty game instead.
What we heard: Call of Duty is a big part of Activision's business. So big in fact that in the publisher's recent restructuring, it dedicated one of its four business divisions to making new installments and spin-offs of the military shooter series. Three of Activision's highest profile internal studios are currently working on the franchise: Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare 3), Treyarch (Black Ops), and the newly formed Sledgehammer Games (unnamed adventure game).
With a trio of top-tier installments en route an an Asian-developed massively multiplayer online game also in the works, the need for more Call of Duty games might seem unnecessary. However, when it comes to making new installments of a phenomenally successful franchise, Activision isn't known for restraint. One only has to look back to 2009, when the publisher released seven distinct Guitar Hero games even though the rhythm genre was imploding.
If Activision needed a studio to pick up a hit first-person shooter franchise without missing a beat, Raven is well suited to the task. The developer has previously offered its own take on established shooter series with last year's Wolfenstein, 2005's Quake 4, and 2002's Star Wars Jedi Knight II, and it has an original body of work in the genre that boasts games like Soldier of Fortune and the forthcoming Singularity.
The Kotaku article reports that in order to make room for the Call of Duty project on Raven's schedule, two of its future projects were put on hold. The games in question were said to be a James Bond title and an X-Men game. If Raven had been working on a 007 game intended to tie into a new Bond movie, that project could very easily have been postponed. Production on the next film has been suspended indefinitely in light of financial turmoil surrounding its distributor, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer. Activision is also already rumored to have a non-cross-promoted, driving-focused James Bond game in the works in the works at Bizarre Creations, with a recent retail listing dubbing it Bloodstone.
As for the X-Men, the last time Activision worked specifically with Marvel's mutant team was for last year's Raven-developed X-Men Origins: Wolverine film tie-in. Given the wealth of X-Men film projects in various stages of development (a sequel to Wolverine, Deadpool, and Magneto spin-offs, as well as a prequel called X-Men: First Class), there would seem to be little need for Activision to create a game without a film tie-in. However, movie-based games are often developed on short timelines, and publishers almost always plan to launch them alongside their on-screen inspiration for maximum synergy. However, the Wolverine, Deadpool, and X-Men: First Class films are are all only in the early stages of preproduction, meaning their game tie-ins could be temporarily shelved if something more pressing came along.
The official story: A representative with the publisher told GameSpot, "Activision does not comment on rumor and speculation."
Bogus or not bogus?: [UPDATE] Looking not bogus. Further reports now point to Raven working on a downloadable content pack for Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops, due out later this year. With Activision reaping record profits from the first Modern Warfare 2 map pack--and just announcing a second round of DLC for the game--it seems likely the publisher could easily put aside other projects in order to quickly cash in on the upcoming title.
Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter is famous for making bold predictions--not all of which come to pass. However, in an interview with Eurogamer this week, the outspoken analyst shed some light on a major gaming event of the past.
"Microsoft paid Take-Two [Interactive] to make Grand Theft Auto IV non-exclusive," he told the publication. "GTA IV was going to be a PS3 exclusive, but Microsoft paid Rockstar and Take-Two to make it a non-exclusive, and they paid them a lot."
When Microsoft announced that Grand Theft Auto IV would launch simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at its 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo briefing, there were audible gasps in the audience. It was a major coup for the software giant, as the three previous iterations of Rockstar Games' wildly popular open-world crime series had debuted on the PlayStation 2. After several months, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did eventually make their way to the original Xbox and PC.
According to Pachter, Microsoft paid a massive premium to bring Grand Theft Auto, which has sold over 15 million units, to the 360 on day one. "The number I've heard, and I'm sure this is right, is $75 million, and that probably includes the funding for the first DLC packs too," said the analyst. "It's more than the $50 million that people talk about."
The downloadable content packs Pachter mentions are the two GTAIV expansions, the Lost & Damned and the Ballad of Gay Tony. During a June 2007 conference call with analysts, Take-Two executives revealed that Microsoft had paid them $25 million for each episode to make them 360-exclusive permanently. However, that presumption was dashed when Rockstar announced they were bound for the PC and PS3 in January. The pair launched just last week for the latter two platforms as a la carte DLC or as part of the Episodes from Liberty City compilation (see video review below), which does not require Grand Theft Auto IV to play.
Pachter also shared some second-hand information on Agent, the forthcoming PlayStation 3 exclusive from the GTAIV team at Rockstar North. He explained it thusly: "Sony…said to Take-Two, 'You've got to give us something else,' and the 'something else' was a zombie game that Rockstar wanted to work on. But while Rockstar was in the planning phase, Dead Rising came out and Left 4 Dead was announced. Rockstar realized they were up against a saturated market and said, 'What can we possibly do that will be any better than what Valve's done?' They started again, and that's when they came up with the idea of Agent, [but] nobody actually knows what it is."
Source: Prolific tech blog Engadget.
What we heard: This morning appeared to be a one-two punch of major Microsoft news. First came a slip-up by a Microsoft Saudi executive that revealed Project Natal is launching worldwide in October. Second was the Engadget report, which bore the headline "Xbox 360 3D gaming a reality with LG partnership."
Engadget's piece was based off of a South Korean press release, but the Amsterdam-based author of the article didn't identify which company issued it. The blog did post a picture (top) of what were (presumably) LG and Microsoft executives playing a 3D game on a LX9500 LED HDTV above cobranded LG and Xbox 360 promotional materials. "The image above is unmistakeable [sic]: 3D gaming on an Xbox 360 with the help of an LG 3D television," declared the article.
Coupled with the headline, that last line set off a wave of reports declaring that Microsoft was jumping on the 3D bandwagon with both feet. Such a move would counter Sony's plans to make all PlayStation 3s 3D-capable via a firmware update later this year.
However, a closer look at the evidence shows that Microsoft's plans are of a much smaller scope than its rival's. On March 29, LG issued a press release to promote the launch of the LX9500 3D HDTV "next month"--i.e. April--although the set still appears to be unavailable. According to a rough translation, the hardware-maker touts a massive bundle, which will include the LX9500, a 3D-capable Blu-ray player, an Xbox 360, an HDMI cable (needed for 3D), and an "Avatar game title."
Indeed, the game shown in the photo is the critically panned movie-tie-in Avatar (see screen for comparison below), which was released last December with out-of-the-box 3D capability with stereoscopic 3D-compatible TVs. Engadget said the promotion also extended to other "3D-capable Xbox 360 games," of which there are few. Those include the movie tie-in G-Force, which came with old-school red-and-blue 3D glasses, and the just-released game of the year edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum, which uses TriOviz 3D technology to work on any television.
The official story: Microsoft offered the following statement: "As we've said before, 3D games are available today on Xbox 360 and will continue to evolve. Today, you can buy a 3DTV and wear glasses to play games like Avatar and Batman: Arkham Asylum. The promotional partnership with LG announced in South Korea today is specific to the South Korean market, but is further evidence that as 3D adoption grows, Xbox 360 will support 3D games and entertainment."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus that Microsoft has announced a new Xbox 360 with 3D capabilities, which some outlets are reporting despite Engadget's explicit caveat that "we're not seeing anything specific claiming new Xbox 360 hardware." Not bogus that Microsoft is hoping to expand its Korean market share--and test the 3D waters--in a cross-promotion deal with LG.
Last Thursday, the game-industry's collective consciousness was coldcocked by the announcement that Activision had signed a 10-year publishing deal with Bungie. Specifically, the agreement gave the Call of Duty publisher exclusive rights to distribute games based on the Halo-maker's all-new property through 2020.
Few details were made available about the new game other than it would be an "action" title. Now, job listings on the official Bungie Web site have revealed its storyline will be more complex than the Halo series. The studio is currently hiring a writing lead to help craft its "next game universe" and is especially interested in scribes with "branching or nonlinear narrative experience."
Though Halo 3: ODST experimented with flashbacks, all Halo games have had a fairly linear storyline. The fact Bungie's next title will have a branching plot indicates it could be an action role-playing game along the lines of Mass Effect 2 or the original Deus Ex.
Another sign pointing toward an action RPG is the fact Bungie is also hiring a "Player Investment Designer" to create "worlds imbued with real value and consequence" and "give players long-term goals to invest them in the world and their character." Long-term character development and storylines that deliver consequences for a player's actions are hallmarks of role-playing games.
Unfortunately, during an interview with GameSpot last week, Bungie reps didn't elaborate on the game's story or subgenre. However, the studio has made it clear that the game will be available on "all platforms," meaning the developer is abandoning the Xbox exclusivity it has maintained since 2001. (The PC ports of Halo and Halo 2 were handled by other developers.) The last game Bungie developed for a PlayStation platform was 2000's Oni.
Source: The Twitter feed of Wu-Tang Clan member the RZA.
What we heard: Following the Great Rhythm Game Flood of 2009, Activision decided to trim back its music-game offerings to just two in the back half of 2010. One is DJ Hero 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed original, which Activision claimed was the highest-grossing new property in the US and Europe last year. The milestone was set in no small part due to Hero's premium price point: The standard turntable-peripheral edition sold for $120, while a Renegade edition bundled with a DJ stand went for $200.
With those kinds of margins, it's little wonder Activision is giving the series a second chance. So far, though, only two artists have indicated that they'll be in the game: French house DJ and producer David Guetta and San Francisco Bay Area downtempo turntablist DJ Shadow. Now, clues are surfacing that a third artist may be on board: Wu-Tang Clan founding member and hip-hop producer the RZA.
In a pair of tweets over the weekend, the RZA, born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, expressed his enthusiasm with a new video game project. "Just finished mocap work at Activision--great team of guys who really appreciate hip-hop. Genuinely effected by the loss of Guru," he twittered early Saturday morning, referring to last week's death of the pioneering Gang Starr frontman.
Shortly thereafter, the RZA twittered the following: "I'm delighted to see that some people in Corp America who are benefittin [sic] $$ from hip-hop are really fans of our work. Big ups Activision!"
The official story: "Activision does not comment on rumor and speculation." - Activision representative.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus. Though the RZA has some acting credits (Repo Men, American Gangster ), it's unlikely that the references to "hip-hop" and "mocap"--that is, motion capture--are for any game other than DJ Hero 2. He'd also be following in the footsteps of many other respected rappers who lent their likenesses to the first DJ Hero, including Grandmaster Flash and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
Source: A post on Duck and Cover that cited an Interplay investor, parroted endlessly throughout the gaming news sphere.
What we heard: Ever since September, Interplay and Bethesda Softworks have been tangled in a legal dispute over the rights to make a massively multiplayer online game using the Fallout brand. When Bethesda acquired the rights to the series from Interplay in April of 2007, one of the conditions was that Interplay be allowed to continue working on its own Fallout MMOG, provided it begin full-scale development within two years.
The day before that two-year window was up, Interplay announced a deal with Bulgarian developer Masthead Studios to develop the game. Unmoved, Bethesda terminated Interplay's license to make the project that same month. The pair brought their dispute into court when Bethesda filed suit against its partner last September, and Interplay responded in kind the following month.
That fight has been simmering for a year, but today's news from Duck and Cover suggested it had finally come to an end, with the two parties reaching a settlement that would clear the way for Interplay to make the Fallout MMOG. An examination of the court filings confirmed that the only movement on the case this week was a dismissal that both parties agreed to.
However, it wasn't a dismissal of each other's claims; it was a dismissal of a Bethesda appeal on the judge's refusal to issue a preliminary injunction against Interplay. The injunction, originally denied by the judge in December, only sought to stop Interplay from trading on the Fallout brand, specifically through the continued sale of the original Fallout, its sequel, and Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel.
So Bethesda and Interplay have come to an agreement on that one aspect of the case, or possibly Bethesda just didn't want to continue fighting for an injunction. But nothing has been filed in the case to suggest that the larger dispute over the Fallout MMOG has been settled.
The official story: Lawyers and representatives with Interplay and Bethesda had not returned GameSpot's request for comment as of press time. However, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made yesterday by Interplay acknowledged the dismissal of the appeal. It also clearly states, "Interplay will continue to defend its rights and to pursue its Counter-Claims against Bethesda, for among other things, Breach of Contract and Declaratory Judgment and an award of damages, attorney fees, and other relief."
[UPDATE] "Bethesda Softworks voluntarily dismissed its appeal as that related only to a preliminary injunction, not a complete resolution. All claims in Bethesda's complaint against Interplay remain pending in their entirety and will be pursued actively." -- Bethesda rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: It's not over yet. Bogus.
When Halo 3 was released in 2007, the game came in three versions: A $60 regular edition, a $70 limited edition, and a $130 legendary edition. Now, scans posted by Planet Xbox 360 appear to show that a similar trifecta is in effect for Halo: Reach, which will ship this fall. The scans are reportedly of an upcoming retail flyer that shows the three products, albeit without any price points.Planet Xbox 360." />
However, one of the deal-sleuths over at Cheap Ass Gamer apparently received even more information via a Best Buy insert that will appear in newspapers starting Sunday, April 25. Though the poster did not include a scan of the image, he did say the standard edition would sell for $60, the limited edition for $80, and the legendary edition for $150.
For the premium price, the CAG poster says the limited edition will apparently include a "special limited edition case, collectibles and in-game armor" while the legendary edition will include " all limited edition contents, unique packaging, plus 'Legendary Noble 6' sculpture and additional in-game armor." The "'Legendary Noble 6' sculpture" is likely a depiction of the six members of Noble Squad, the group of Spartans aiding in the defense of the titular planet in Halo: Reach from a Covenant armada.
In addition, members of Best Buy's Reward Zone Gamers Club will get "500 bonus points ($10 value) and up to 3 months of Xbox Live FREE with the pre-order of ANY version of Halo: Reach," according to CAG. (Emphasis in the original.)
When asked about the tripartite retail plan for Halo: Reach, Microsoft offered the familiar refrain of "Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation. However, the company was quick to point out the May 3 launch of the Halo: Reach multiplayer beta, which Bungie expects will attract over 3 million participants. For a closer look at what the beta has to offer, check out GameSpot's brand-new preview.
[UPDATE] The three editions are now official.
Source: UK gaming site CVG.
What we heard: Nintendo timed the announcement of its upcoming 3DS at a weird hour. Preempting the launch of the DSi XL by a launch in March, Nintendo said the system's glasses-free, 3D-capable successor would arrive a year or less later. Analysts quickly speculated that the announcement was a proactive measure to get ahead of unauthorized media leaks.
Now, it appears as if Nintendo has selected an equally unexpected launch window for its newest handheld. UK gaming site CVG reports today that Nintendo plans to launch the 3DS this October, a move that will allow it to get a two-month jump on the busy holiday shopping season. CVG noted that its information came by way of "UK industry sources," that were apparently caught off guard by Nintendo's release strategy.
"It's a surprise--we were expecting it much closer to Christmas," a source reportedly told the site. "But I suppose it gives Nintendo the opportunity to get it front and centre in people's minds nice and early. In my experience, you don't launch a product that early to Christmas unless you're confident in it--and going to spend a lot of money on it. We're reassured that Nintendo is going to give it some decent backing in Q4."
Nintendo is said to be planning on announcing the system's release date during its Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference on June 15. Also, CVG's report did not indicate whether the October launch was a worldwide rollout. While the publisher has in the past clumped together the European and North American releases for DS-branded systems, the Japanese launch often happens several months earlier.
If the release schedule for the DS line of handhelds is any indication, Nintendo has no proclivity toward launching in a particular month. The original Nintendo DS landed in North America in November 2004. That release was followed by the DS Lite in June 2006, with the DSi following in April 2009. The DSi XL arrived stateside in March 2010.
Also, an October launch window would make sense for Nintendo, were it to want to get ahead of high-profile hardware releases from Microsoft and Sony. Both companies have scheduled the launch of their heavily hyped camera-based motion-sensing add-ons for the holiday window.
The official story: Nintendo had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Leaning toward not bogus. Even though Nintendo saw a significant bump in DS sales during March in the US due to the XL, interest in the system has significantly waned in the past few months. Staying ahead in the handheld market is key to the publisher, and an early October launch would have the fringe benefit of preempting--or disrupting--Project Natal and PlayStation Move's fall debuts.
What we heard: Media Molecule seemed to be adamantly opposed to a creating a sequel to its customization-heavy PlayStation 3 platformer Little Big Planet in November. Responding to a job listing that indicated a sequel could be on the way, level designer Danny Leaver said that the studio would "never want to" create a Little Big Planet 2. "That'd be the most counterproductive thing you could do, I think," he said.
Well, if a Twitter update by composer Christopher Leary is to be believed, it would appear as if Leaver's opinion has been overruled. Over the weekend, Leary tweeted: "Pleased to announce the licensing of 'Infotain Me' to Sony for Little Big Planet 2 on PS3." Shacknews managed to capture an image of the Twitter update before it was pulled from the social-networking site.
According to Leary's Web site, the Newcastle, England-based musician has contributed tunes to a handful of games in recent years, such as independent projects Whizzle and Euclidean Crisis. He has also released two full-length albums, with a third due later this year.
Little Big Planet has been one of Sony's most successful PS3-exclusive titles. The game received critical praise, as well as multiple industry awards upon its October 2008 release, having achieved platinum sales by the end of that year. In March, Sony acquired Media Molecule outright, shortly after the Surrey, England-based studio shipped a version of Little Big Planet for the PSP.
However, it should be noted that musicians and other outside talent have a notoriously spotty track record when it comes to properly naming the projects their work will appear in. Most recently, Jimi Hendrix's estate holder trumpeted the fact that the legendary guitarist's music would be turned into "a new edition of Rock Band." But, unlike the upcoming Rock Band: Green Day, said "new edition" turned out to be downloadable content for the existing Rock Band platform.
The official story: Neither Leary not Sony had responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus…for now. Despite the clear hit potential of a second installment in the Little Big Planet franchise, Media Molecule has expressed strong opposition to creating a follow-up from fear of fracturing the game's player community. However, were the studio able to finagle a way in which the work of Little Big Planet's 2 million-strong community could be made forward compatible with a new game…
Source: See below.
What we heard: Someone at Xbox Live is getting fired. At least, that appears to be the case if a leaked screen that has surfaced on the blog All Games Beta is legitimate.
Yesterday, the self-described "11th-hour delay" pushed Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski's mystery game announcement on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon until Monday, April 12. The title in question had widely been assumed to be Gears of War 3--so assumed, in fact, that Edge magazine has already posted leaked details about the title.
However, it looks like a staffer at Xbox Live didn't get the memo. AGB is displaying a screen, which it claims appeared on the online service last night. "Gears of War 3 announced," trumpets the image on the Xbox Live menu bar, "the epic story concludes April 2011." Currently, the image is no longer visible.
The official story: "We have made no official announcements, but please stay tuned."--Microsoft rep.
Bogus or not bogus?: Probably not bogus. Sure, the image could be easily faked, but plans about a third installment in the series have been around for years. As far back as November 2006, Microsoft has been making references to a "Gears of War Trilogy."
Also, Edge reported back in March that Microsoft plans to release Gears of War in April 2011. The company apparently pushed the game out of 2010 so it wouldn't divert consumer dollars from the fall launch of Project Natal, the Xbox 360's camera-based motion-sensing system.
However, the first quarter of 2011 is when Electronic Arts will publish a still-untitled shooter from Epic Games' Polish studio People Can Fly, maker of the Painkiller games. Releasing Gears of War 3 during that quarter would pit one Epic game against another--something the cash-flush North Carolinian studio and Unreal Engine 3-maker wouldn't tolerate.
Last but not least, not making Gears of War 3 would be economic folly for Microsoft. The first two games have been massive hits, with Gears of War 2 topping 5 million units sold worldwide and the original selling over 3.2 million copies in the US alone.
There's also the matter of ancillary revenue from Gears of War novels, comic books, and a film adaptation, although the latter has apparently run into production issues of late. To quote Danny DeVito in the David Mamet film Heist, "Everyone needs money. That's why they call it 'money.'"
[UPDATE] Following the publication of this report, numerous GameSpot users have reported seeing the same announcement on Xbox Live this morning. So, not bogus!
Source: Game industry news magazine Edge.
What we heard: By most accounts, Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski was poised to officially announce Gears of War 3 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon tonight. However, such was not to be the case, as Fallon broke the news today that Bleszinski's Late Night reveal of Epic's "new game" has been rescheduled to Monday, April 12. According to Bleszinski, the delay could be attributed to the studio's wanting "a couple more days to polish."
Still, it appears as if some Gears 3 details have emerged today anyway. Gaming news magazine Edge claims to have the scoop on Epic's latest brawny third-person shooter for Microsoft's Xbox 360, thanks to a loose-lipped US publishing source.
According to Edge's source, Gears 3 will be set during the summer months and will introduce underwater missions into the series, among other new environments. The site also claims that Epic has tinkered with Gears' hallmark cover system, namely by adding mech suits that players can use to mow through the Locust hordes or to hide behind as heavy-duty, mobile cover.
Edge also claims to have details on new units and weapons that will be introduced in the game. These include Locust enemies with "tentacle-like appendages" that can extend over or behind players' cover spots. Conversely, Marcus Fenix's Delta Squad will reportedly pick up a new type of explosive that worms its way underground to demolish enemy cover positions. Edge notes that the new additions will be available in both single- and multiplayer modes.
The official story: Microsoft had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Looking not bogus. Bleszinski's appearance on Late Night almost assures a Gears of War 3 announcement, and the 11th-hour schedule change makes the early-reveal gaffe entirely plausible. Of course, these questions will be answered in full on Monday night.
Source: British site Computerandvideogames.com, the online home of Sony-centric PSM3 Magazine.
What we heard: Last month, Valve Software revealed it was readying Portal 2, a full-fledged sequel to its award-winning first-person puzzle game, for a holiday release. However, while the first Portal was released for the PlayStation 3, PC, and Xbox 360 as part of the 2007 Orange Box compilation, its follow-up was announced only for the latter two platforms and the Mac, which Valve is now supporting wholeheartedly.
Given that Valve's last two games--Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2--were released only for the PC, Xbox 360, and (now) Mac, it looked like Portal 2 would not be released for the PS3. Bolstering that assumption was Valve Software CEO Gabe Newell's vocal criticism of Sony's console. The veteran developer, who was recently honored with a Pioneer Award at the 2010 Game Developers Choice Awards, has repeatedly complained about how the platform's Cell processor is difficult to work with and outsourced PS3 porting duties for the Orange Box to publisher Electronic Arts.
Now, it seems that EA may also be porting Portal 2 to the PS3. The cover of next month's issue of PSM3 clearly lists "Portal 2" as featured in the magazine, which covers only PlayStation 3 and PSP offerings. Though the announcement is not official, the upcoming game--which will introduce co-op play in a mode separate from the main storyline--has its title listed under "36 must-play PS3 games" along with Fallout: New Vegas, Brink, Crysis 2, and the Medal of Honor reboot.
The official story: (Sound of crickets chirping) -- Valve spokesperson.
Bogus or not bogus?: Not bogus…unless PSM3's copy editors let a doozy of a typo slip through.
Source: Dutch site Game Kings.
What we heard: Two weeks after rumors of an Xbox 360 slim surfaced on a Chinese message board, Dutch site Game Kings is touting what it claims are photos of the device, reportedly code-named "Napoleon" after the diminutive French emperor.
The unconfirmed and very much unofficial photos show a flat model about 60 percent of the area of the full-sized Xbox 360, which launched in November 2005. Since no sidelong photos are presented, it's unclear what the thickness of the device is, although it appears to not have the detachable faceplate of its elder sibling or a place to attach the external hard drive. Curiously, there are also no head-on shots of the device.
There's a reason for that. The device pictured is none other than the discontinued Xbox 360 HD DVD player. Microsoft had given the now-dead format lukewarm support via an optional peripheral versus the PlayStation 3's internal Blu-ray player. The high-definition format was locked in a life-or-death struggle with Blu-ray until January 2008, when Warner Bros. opted to support the latter exclusively. Mega-retailer Wal-Mart soon followed suit, with format creator Toshiba finally pulling the plug on HD DVD in February of that year.
The official story: Microsoft reps had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus. Apparently April Fools' Day falls on March 30 in Holland.
Source: British news site VG247.
What we heard: Microsoft has sent mixed messages about bringing massively multiplayer online role-playing games to the Xbox 360. The announcement that Final Fantasy XI was coming to the console was the centerpiece of its 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo press conference. (The Xbox 360 had been revealed the week before). However, the company quietly killed off its Marvel superhero MMORPG for the console, which developer Cryptic then turned into Champions Online for the PC.
With the console version of Champions Online now canceled, Xbox 360 owners are wondering what the next big MMORPG for the system might be. VG247 appeared to answer that question when it posted what it claimed was European retailer GAME's internal long-term schedule of Xbox 360 releases. Toward the end, the schedule clearly lists Star Wars: The Old Republic as coming to the console sometime in 2011. EA recently pushed back the PC version of the game to a "spring 2011" launch window.
The official story: The listing appeared to back up speculation sparked by comments made by Electronic Arts president Frank Gibeau in 2008. Then, he told Eurogamer that his company was "definitely looking at the opportunity to bring the MMO experience to console, without question."
However, EA subsidiary BioWare, which is developing the game at its Austin studio, quickly shot down the rumor in a post on the official Old Republic forums. "As to why The Old Republic is on that list, we have no idea but to allay any confusion, we should not be on there," said BioWare community manager Sean Dahlberg.
Dahlberg also re-posted his company's official boilerplate regarding the sci-fi MMORPG: "Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently being developed for the personal computer (PC) using the Microsoft Windows operating system. While we recognize that there are other operating systems and platforms available for games today, our development is specific to the personal computer using the Windows operating system at this time."
Bogus or not bogus?: Bogus…for now, anyway.