Rumor Killers: Epic Mickey, PS3 Slim at GamesCom, Gearbox working on Halo

A steampunk Disney game? PS3 Slim announcement at GamesCom? Halo 4 from the Borderlands team? Adam Standing brings another edition of the rumor reality-check known as Rumor Killers.

Spector bringing out Epic Mickey?

If you haven’t heard of Warren Spector, then you should have. His CV is littered with touchstone titles; Deus Ex, System Shock and Thief: Deadly Shadows are some of the best PC games ever made. So when his development studio Junction Point Studios was swallowed up by Disney in 2007, an entire race of gamers cried out, fearing that this well-respected developer would be forced to churn out games like Daffy Duck’s Birthday Partyz – for Wii & DS.

Spector remained tight-lipped on any speculation regards his next game since the takeover, although he’s dropped hints that it would involve some Disney characters. The first sign of any details came last year, when a Gamasutra article revealed the codename for Spector’s next project as “Epic Mickey”. It also described, in detail, several images of concept art, and it now seems that those images have surfaced on the website of concept artist Fred Gambino – labeled as part of a game project called, you guessed it, “Epic Mickey”.

Thanks to some digging by a NeoGAF forumite, another artist’s site has been found, displaying more concept art with the same steampunk vibe of the art described in the Gamasutra article and on Gambino’s site. Steampunk is certainly the word for forlorn backdrops and heavy industry, especially when it’s full of familiar Disney characters but given those twisted, industrialized looks. The art looks downright awesome, and disturbing in equal measure. Two images stand out in particular: a one armed mechanical Goofy looking like he’s been patched together by the apocalypse itself, and a version of Mickey Mouse that looks more like a machine built to kill than the friendly mascot of a giant corporation.

Joystiq also reported that another concept artist, Tony Pulham, had worked on the game, describing it as a “Wii Video Game” in his online resume. After checking this out, it appears that this particular citation has been deleted, so whether or not this project is an exclusive Wii title remains a mystery. What swings me towards believing that is an older news report from early 2008; EGM columnist Quartermann wrote “word is that Spector’s new Disney project will be a platformer looking to compete with a certain pesky plumber. And who’s big enough to take on Nintendo’s star? Only the mouse himself!” – Mickey Mouse platformer confirmed? Maybe, and if it’s going up against Mario then it makes sense for “Epic Mickey” to be a Wii exclusive.

Much as I dislike most of its products, seeing this alternative, disturbed view of the Disney world has piqued my interest tremendously. What’s more, this could be that mature title for the Wii that doesn’t have to resort to the gratuitous blood and guts of MadWorld or House of the Dead: Overkill. Disney platformers aren’t a new thing either – remember how good DuckTales was? – so not only do I think this rumor’s true, but that this could well be the third-party Wii game that finally kicks (Mickey’s) ass.

TGR says: True

PS3 Slim announcement at GamesCom?

Despite a raft of leaked photos and various non-confirmations across the Internet, the PS3 Slim has never been officially acknowledged by Sony. In a TGR editorial last month, James Bishop argued that the arrival of the PS3 Slim was logically inevitable. Now, within the space of a few days, evidence has started to pour in that’s adding weight to the likelihood of a slimmer, fitter, less two-salary dependent PlayStation 3 coming our way.

Is GamesCom the venue for the PS3 Slim announcement?

Firstly, the German flavor of Amazon has a listing for a PlayStation 3 Konsole Slim. Aside from the picture (which is user-submitted), the entry is pretty slim on details – sorry (you will be – Ed.) After a few days the listing vanished, but over in Japan another retailer, 7-Eleven-, put up a notice stating that the 80GB PS3 is being discontinued from August 9th, also mentioning that all in-store displays for the console were to be removed. This isn’t an isolated case either. Over in Belgium, RTLinfo has reported that wholesalers are claiming the price of the PS3 will not only drop by 100 Euros to €299, but that it will also coincide with the imminent release of the PS3 Slim. RTLinfo also claims that the official announcement for both the price cut and the new hardware will be made at the GamesCom convention. This is a rumor backed up by the UK’s Playstation 3 Magazine (PSM3) which stated in their blog that “all we know is that… it will launch this year, most likely in early September. Price? Less sure, but not much cheaper, if at all, from the current model. They’ll announce it at the GamesCom in Cologne, Aug 19-23rd, for near-certain.”

It looks like a Slim announcment at GamesCom is highly likely, but what about the long-ovedue price cut? Well, Sony has already stated that the costs associated with making the console have fallen dramatically. Sony’s CEO and Executive VP Nobuyuki Oneda revealed in an investors conference call that the production costs are now down by a massive 70%, right on track with Sony’s internal predictions. Although specific costs weren’t revealed, it’s universally accepted that the original cost of the PS3 was roughly $800 (£485) per console, making the estimate for current manufacturing costs at $240 (£146) for each unit. That’s cheap enough to accommodate for a nice $100 price cut and still allow Sony to make a profit on each console sold.

Combine this official word with the report from RTLinfo and there’s a compelling case for a decent-sized price cut. But will Sony actually go through with something so dramatic? Techradar spoke to Screen Digest Analyst Piers Harding-Rolls who said, “Our forecasts estimate the introduction of a price cut in September. In terms of the amount of the price cut, 100 Euros is at the top end of what we would expect, so I still think that figure is fairly speculative, because of the situation that Sony is currently in financially.’

Given that the price cut rumours are so varied when it comes to specific amounts I’m going to have to give the big price drop a big no-no. It seems unlikely that Sony would be so dramatic as to hit the market with a substantial price cut and the PS3 Slim at the same time. What all this evidence points to is a big unveiling at Cologne’s GamesCom of the new hardware and a modest price drop. It feels a little odd that Germany is going to be the venue for this announcement and it leaves the Tokyo Game Show looking a little bare in comparison. With that in mind, I wouldn’t mind betting that the actual console itself won’t be physically revealed until then, coinciding with its release.

TGR says: True

Gearbox working on a Halo title for Microsoft?

Whether or not Gearbox is/has/might’ve/might be working on a Halo title for Microsoft is a rumor that’s been going around for months. The speculation on whether the game in question is none other than "Halo 4", ready for the next Xbox console launch, has been fierce. Other less fanciful speculation suggests the company may instead be working on a PC port of Halo 3. But the saga took an extra couple of twists last week when Randy Pitchford, Gearbox CEO, let slip in an interview – not in the one with us for Inside the Games unfortunately, but when he spoke to Eurogamer. When asked about Gearbox’s involvement in a Halo Project, Pitchford replied, “Haha! We’re not going to talk about anything…" by which time a PR rep was forced to interject with “we can’t talk about that”.

Can’t talk about it, eh? So does the denial to talk about it infer its existence? Well, according to the handbook on rumor and speculation, it certainly does… except Microsoft’s official Halo Waypoint Twitter account later stated that “for the record, Gearbox is NOT working on a Halo title for Microsoft”.

So that really should be the end of the affair, but let’s not be swayed by just a single statement on Twitter, no matter how official it might be. Flat-out denials of any type should always be taken with a pinch of salt; how many similar denials did we go through for Gears of War for Windows, only for Epic to come out with the game? No, as far as I’m concerned, there’s too much smoke over at Gearbox HQ for all this Halo talk to mean nothing.

Is Gearbox bringing Halo 3 to the PC, or will Halo never return to home computers?

But does that mean Gearbox are working on Halo 4? Extremely unlikely; after Microsoft unveiled their new Halo studio (343 Industries), it seems post-Bungie that any continuation of the franchise will go through that development house. Also, Gearbox are busy putting the finishing touches to their new title, Borderlands, out October 20th. They’re also developing Aliens: Colonial Marines which won’t be coming out until the release of Aliens vs. Predator in 2010. That all sounds like a lot of work already for a studio such as Gearbox, but on their official website they do show three mystery projects still in development.

It’s been confirmed that Duke Begins, the Duke Nukem prequel, is one of these mystery games, with speculation that Heat, the recently cancelled game based on the acclaimed movie, might be the second. Could this Halo game be the third? I think it could, and I reckon that Gearbox is working on a PC port of Halo 3. Why? They’ve previously worked with Bungie in porting the first Halo game (very successfully) to the PC, and they’ve also had a part in every Half-Life expansion on the PC, as well as having ported the original Half-Life over to the consoles several times. If Halo 3 is going to be getting a PC version then the team at Gearbox is the one to do it.

TGR says: True (but it ain’t Halo 4)

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