Rumor Killers: August 15th, 2008

Has EA been Fixing Prices on Used Games?

One of the weirdest things I notice when perusing the used game section at my local shops is the fact that some used copies are only a few bucks cheaper than a new game. I stand there wondering why on earth I would bother buying a used copy of Madden ’09 for $55, when for $60 I can get a brand new game with that wonderful vacuum-sealed aroma. It looks like there may be more to the issue than simple supply and demand, as one UK store employees believes EA is engaging in price-fixing to keep its used game prices artificially high.

Recently, a writer for Xbox 360 Wire went into a nearby GAME shop and noticed that the prices of used games, particularly those published by EA, were remarkably close to the same price as a new copy. When he asked the store clerk, he was told that GAME is not allowed to set its own prices for used EA games, and presumably the price is kept high in order to sell more new copies, thus ensuring the publishers a cut of the sales. The writer checked out a Gamestation store as well, and saw a similar price differential there.

So what exactly is going on here? Could it be that EA is engaged in some sort of price-fixing, an act which is illegal under UK laws? Has anyone noticed similar practices in the US? Do used EA games seem to be a touch more expensive than everyone else’s, and do they stay that way longer? While this report may just be the tip of the iceberg, deeper investigation could reveal quite the corporate conspiracy… or just a lot of unnecessary paranoia.

TGR Verdict: Possible

Microsoft Creating a Halo-Only Studio?

It’s no secret that Halo is one of the biggest franchises in gaming and one of Microsoft’s biggest cash cows. The Halo trilogy has already netted the company a boatload of cash, and the upcoming Halo Wars will likely grow that bottom line substantially.

Of course, the main problem with continuing the Halo franchise is that Bungie, the studio behind the series’ success, is now an independent group and not interested in continuing to develop games in the Halo universe. That doesn’t mean that Master Chief and friends will quietly fade away though, as Microsoft still holds the rights to all things Halo, and would like nothing more to keep the franchise running ad infinitum.

To that end word has leaked that Microsoft is looking to put together a group of developers to create an internal studio focused on making a new Halo game. All we know so far is that the project is being billed as a "new experience," which likely means that it won’t be another FPS featuring a certain Spartan and his bevy of firearms.

If the new game does well, (and likely even if it doesn’t) then it’s easy to assume that this same group of developers will be put in charge of future Halo projects. Thus, it looks like Microsoft is preparing to create their very own Halo Studios, which will handle the franchise from now on. All you aspiring developers dusting off your resumes yet?

TGR Verdict: Very Likely

EA to Publish Brutal Legend?

Brutal Legend has had a rough go of things as of late. First, the game gets dropped by Activision during the merger process, then MTV decides they don’t want to publish it either. All the while, our old buddy Tim Schafer just keeps plugging along, promising us that everything is going to be okay and that we’ll be enjoying the adventures of a roadie who fights evil using the power of rock very soon. That’s all well and good, but who’s going to publish?

According to Kotaku, it may very well be EA. The publishing giant has already scooped up distribution for the MTV-published Rock Band, and the company just announced that they’ve also inked a deal to publish a new Epic game, so adding Brutal Legend to the mix may not be that far-fetched.

But isn’t EA, the corporate giant who stands for all that is evil in the gaming world, publishing a Tim Schafer game (he who can do no wrong) a sign of the apocalypse? I’m tempted to call this rumor killed for the sake of saving humanity, but actually seeing Brutal Legend on store shelves might just be enough to trade my imperil the fate of all mankind. Still, one unnamed source is not enough to confirm a rumor, and EA and Double Fine both have no comment, so for now we just have to call this one wishful thinking.

TGR Verdict: Possible (but potentially cataclysmic)

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