Rumor Killers: October 21

Is Microsoft designing a forward compatible console?

Oftentimes in the gaming industry you hear about how companies are trying to "future proof" their creations. Sony tosses the phrase about all the time, claiming that the PS3 is going to be at the bleeding edge of technology for quite some time due to the ability to constantly update the system via firmware. Microsoft, it seems, is willing to go one better, by prepping a "forward compatible" Xbox which will not only be able to play its own games, but will improve the qualities of Xbox 360 games as well.

Right now you are likely wondering how a system that plays its predecessor’s games is "forward compatible" rather than backwards compatible, and really it’s all an issue of quality. According to the original sourcethe new system will not just play your old games with slightly cleaned up graphics, but will rather improve them using the console’s new technology. Here’s an example they cite:

"Imagine playing Gears of War 3 on your Xbox 360 it looks and plays good right? Well imagine that the year after it comes out you go out to buy the next Xbox and it looks even better, it plays even better. Features in the new controller are utilized with the game, the graphics do not only look sharper, but the draw distance is better, the speed is better, framerate, and there are even new features, perhaps even levels via DLC for the game on the third-generation Xbox."

Thus far the story’s "source" doesn’t have any info other than that Microsoft is "testing the waters" for this new technology, and the company obviously is choosing not to comment when it comes to something so highly secretive as specs for a new console.

There are a couple of things that stick out on this one and which make me hesitant to believe. First off is the always suspicious anonymous source, who could be anyone from Don Mattrick to the crazy janitor at the local Wal-Mart who is convinced the government is stealing his underwear. Second is the fact that the story from Xbox Evolved spends the entire first paragraph begging us not to dismiss the rumor out of hand because they were right about the Xbox 360 having a built-in hard drive three years ago. Both issues seem like a site just begging for you to find their unbelievable story credible simply because they really want you to pay attention.

On the other hand, this technology isn’t completely unheard of, as though it were out of Star Trek, because PCs do this kind of thing all the time. If you run the same title on a low-end PC vs. a high-end model, you’ll likely think you’re playing two different games, so significant is the difference. However, PC games are made with varying system requirements already in mind, so how this whole concept could transfer to consoles, I have no idea.

So while this is definitely an interesting idea, it falls into the big pile of unsubstantiated rumors we keep in the corner and try to ignore. They’re the worst kind of rumor, without the common decency to die or be confirmed, so they just fester over there until we return months later to sift through the pile and dust one off once we get some solid info. In the meantime however, this is the latest piece of gossip to go into that unspeakable heap.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Unlikely

Is the latest PS3 firmware update causing more problems?

I’m starting to get the feeling that Sony just isn’t very good at doing firmware updates. After the infamous 2.30 debacle, in which the firmware update completely locked systems and forced users to reformat their hard drives and erase all their saved data, we continue to cast a wary eye in Sony’s direction every time a new update is released. And it would seem our vigilance is rewarded, as the company’s latest update is at it again.

According to the Australian arm of IGN, there is a fresh new bug in the recently released 2.50 firmware that is nearly as irritating as a dingo eating your baby. According to the blokes, the latest firmware update has left them unable to use theirPS3 at all while it’s hooked up to, get this, Sony branded home theatre equipment. Here’s the excerpt of their experience:

"We installed firmware 2.50 yesterday only to be greeted by a blank screen. After much swearing and trouble-shooting we discovered it was the Sony amp/receiver that was incompatible with the new firmware. We were able to get a picture again by cutting the Sony amp out of the loop and going straight into the projector.

For the record, the IGN AU PS3 setup includes a 7.1 Sony amp/receiver supporting 1080p over HDMI and a 1080p Sony projector. The fact that the new firmware renders the PS3 unusable with this top-line Sony home theatre is utterly boggling.

On a related note, while trouble-shooting the problem we hooked the PS3 up to the projector via composite and also found that it’s currently only displaying a black and white image over this video signal. These are both quite serious bugs to sneak through with the latest firmware."

Ruh-roh, looks like someone in QA screwed the pooch again, and now Sony has released yet another batch of faulty firmware. We’re still trying to get a handle on the magnitude of the situation, but so far at least this appears to be a much less widespread problem than 2.30. Sony also hasn’t yet commented on the issue yet, as they are busily trying to figure out what exactly went wrong and who put the decimal in the wrong place to cause all this mess.

In any case, this isn’t going to assuage any fears from folks who have been reluctant to apply firmware updates in light of the 2.30 fiasco. Now we’re starting to get to the point where Sony isn’t going to even know if there are bugs in the updates because no one’s going to bother installing them as they are too busy waiting for the bug report to come out. So when Sony finally releases the new brainwave-control compatability option in 2011 in firmware update 5.60, we’re all still going to be running 2.25.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Confirmed

Are Trophies going to actually be worth something?

While Microsoft and Sony will try and tell you that Achievements and Trophies are totally different (and they totally are, because one uses numbers and the other uses degrees of shininess), one thing that they both have in common is that when it comes right down to it, they’re both utterly worthless. That’s right, no matter how big your gamerscore or how impressive your collection of platinum, at the end of the day they’re both worth about as much as your current 401k, and that ain’t a lot. However, seems like things may be changing…

According to a story in the most recent issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine, Sony is currently "mulling over" the idea of rewarding Trophy-hunting prowess. "How will they do that?" you say? Well I’m glad you asked, "We doubt it’ll be cash (or the equivalent), but we suspect it might be exclusive access to early betas and the like," says the all-knowing magazine.

Sony reps are playing hard to get as usual, choosing not to comment on the rumor and thereby leaving us to dream up ideas on our own. What sort of rewards do you think are appropriate? Exclusive themes and wallpapers? Early access to demos and betas? You’re very own lifesize replica of Kaz Hirai?

While this one has a little more credence than average considering the source, we still don’t have a lot to go on here, so who knows if it’s true or not? I personally find this to be a pretty great idea, as it would allow Sony to get the Trophies out of Microsoft’s Achievements shadow, and it might reward gamers for really digging into their games. Achievements and Trophies are changing the way we play games anyway, so this would definitely be an exciting next step.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Somewhat Likely

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