Rumor Killers: 360 Pro No More, IO Off Hitman 5, Revamped Azeroth for WoW: Cataclysm

What’s a Thursday without Rumor Killers? Not a Thursday, that’s what. Adam Standing makes sure this Thursday is still a Thursday. Yeah.

Xbox 360 60GB discontinued, Elite price drop?

Now that Sony has finally unveiled the PS3 Slim at this week’s GamesCom, what will Microsoft’s response be? Well, it appears that they’re doing a little of their own stock shifting as photos sent to Kotaku from Gamestop employees show Arcade 360 boxes only advertising the Elite and the Arcade models on the back, with the Pro conspicuously absent. Since then a snapshot of the Meijer catalogue, a retail superstore, shows a picture of an Elite retailing for $299, a dramatic drop of $100. According to Kotaku, this new price is meant to hit ‘"catalog stands" on August 30th. But further digging by Joystiq revealed a slightly different story: "we called nearly a dozen Meijer’s locations to try and confirm the cut — only one Media Center employee had heard about it, and explained that it would be a ‘week-long sale’, and not a permanent price drop."

Despite this employee’s explanation, I find it difficult to believe a temporary sale of $100 is possible whilst reports of the Pro’s demise are in the wild. The case for the Pro’s exit grows larger if coupled with a story reported last week by MCV about Argos showing the 60GB Pro model as ‘discontinued’ on their website. Although they’ve since come out and said that this was an honest mistake, Eurogamer reported that they’d received confirmation of the Pro’s demise from "a member of a small chain of British retail stores". They went on to say that "furthermore, the source claims Microsoft will increase the price of the Xbox 360 Arcade bundle and remove the free Xbox Live Arcade games from within". This has since been confirmed by Eurogamer who has been told by online retailer ShopTo that, ‘Microsoft will increase the price of the Arcade Xbox 360 bundle to £159.99 (from £129.99) starting 1st September".

This looks to be a purely UK move as Eurogamer’s independent retail source cited the poor Pound to Euro exchange rate as the reason for this price hike. While this does lend weight to the continued speculation of the Pro being phased out and replaced by the Elite, the decision to raise the price of the Arcade quite so much strikes me as very odd. That is, of course, unless Microsoft has finally seen the light and will now fit the Arcade models with a hard drive, something that makes sense in a market gradually focusing on digital downloads.

Since the price of a new PS3 Slim will be $299, it seems highly likely that Microsoft will trim down their range of SKUs and continue with just the Arcade and Elite. Dropping the premium console down to $299 is something I feel Microsoft has to do in order to compete with Sony on price. In my mind it would make more sense to drop the Pro down to the Arcade’s price point and do away with the hard drive-less version of the Xbox360 completely. After all, the different versions of the Xbox are merely down to their hard drives and colours. There’s little need for a middle SKU anymore and it would help to ease confusion by reducing the count to two. Now that the Arcade is getting a price hike in the UK, maybe both systems will get a little redesign or a few juicy additions. PlanetXbox360 has already shown a few pictures of an "all new Xbox 360 Elite model". These photos are just the retail packaging but it’s not a huge step to think that a small iteration could be included as well.

TGR says: True

Rocksteady Replacing IO for Hitman 5?

Agent 47 to switch agencies?

Rocksteady Studios, the studio behind the forthcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum, are reportedly going to work on the next Hitman game, rather than IO Interactive who’ve previously been developing the series. According to voice actor Mark Sloan’s resume on the Castingcallpro website, he’s on Rocksteady’s books for Hitman 5. If true, this could be a major worry for the series as there’s a certain essence and personality to Hitman games that IO have built up over time. Although the idea of reboot is appealing, the idiosyncrasies brought to Hitman by IO are just as integral to the series as Agent 47.

Threatening to flush Hitman 5 down the proverbial pan is a statement in Variety magazine: "The [next] film will contain story elements from ‘Hitman 5′ the upcoming Eidos video game that will be released in late 2010". Movie tie-ins are bad enough, but taking a well-respected game series like Hitman and mashing it together with an associated movie sequel sounds like a painful mixture of bad ideas.

So is Hitman 5 doomed before it’s even been developed? Hopefully not since Chairman of Eidos Ian Livingstone stated to Prey’s World Gaming Magazine that Rocksteady’s involvement in the franchise was non-existent: "This is the first I’ve heard about it. Hitman always has been and always will be IO Interactive’s baby, which it still continues to be so. Rocksteady are not involved with the development of Hitman 5". Sounds conclusive.

Some further digging reveals that Eidos owns part of Rocksteady Studios meaning that IO Interactive might well be using them for voice or motion capture work, rather than anything related to game design or development. As for the rumor that a link between the new film and Hitman 5 might have any effect on the game has also been put to bed by IO Interactive themselves. Speaking to Kotaku, an IO Interactive Community manager said, "I can tell you that there is no way we will be basing a storyline for a new Hitman game on the story in a licensed movie. That’s just not how we work so you shouldn’t be concerned about that.". Consider my bald, sweaty brow wiped clean and now I can look forward to the untainted fifth Hitman game next year (that was TMI about your brow. You’re fired – Ed).

TGR says: False

More WoW Cataclysm details leaked?

It will never die. Never. NEVER.

Although it’s yet to be officially announced, the leaks continue to pour out of Blizzard regarding the details of their new expansion, tentatively titled ‘Cataclysm’. Further to last week’s column in which Jennifer Allen discusssed the two new races leaked from WOW.com, MMO Champion has pieced together a list of content taken from various sources, some more dubious than others. It’s worth noting, however, that MMO Champion did leak the previous World of Warcraft expansionReturn of the Lich King – before any other site, lending their list some credibility.

What’s interesting about these details is that no new continent has been opened up for the rumored expansion, making it the first one to reuse existing areas instead. MMO Champion state that "a cataclysmic event caused by Deathwing and Azshara will change the face of Azeroth as we know it. Most of the new content for Cataclysm will take the form of a revamped Azeroth, taking advantage of newer additions to WoW such as phasing and daily quests."

One could argue that Blizzard has run out of new ideas, but if true this shows that the company isn’t afraid to drastically alter WoW‘s content and give it a fresh coat of paint. Re-designing these older areas is an interesting way to open up the game to WoW‘s newer players. I for one would love to see these older areas change dramatically. I never managed to get into WoW over its five year reign. Any attempts to start from Northshire again ended in boredom after a few hours. Reinvigorating these areas with new content and an active user-base would definitely draw me back in and, crucially, open my wallet to Blizzard each month. For the higher-end players the new content is going to be about unreleased areas; "with the addition of flying mounts to Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms and the redesign of many zones, most of the previously unreachable or incomplete zones will now be made available to players. This is where most of the new content from 80 to 85 will take place", according to MMO Champion.

Whether or not we can trust this leak from MMO Champion is another matter. Even if they’re right about what they’ve revealed, there’s likely to be a lot more content coming whenever the officially announcement arrives – possibly at BlizzCon. Also, World of Warcraft’s huge user-base means a metric ton of speculation is par for the course when it comes to updates like this. However, considering that they got the last expansion details right, I get the feeling that this could be the real deal. Going back to the original Azeroth content and revitalising it, all while furthering the end game content, has the big stamp of ’WIN’ pasted all over it. In fact, Blizzard would be fools not to do it.

TGR says: True

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