Rumor Killers: December 16

Rumor Killers

Has the Need for Speed Series been given the boot?

The racing genre is a fairly crowded market with tons of titles all clamoring for a fairly small slice of the gaming public. With franchises like Burnout, Midnight Club, and Gran Turismo all vying for consumer wallets, it’s just a matter of time before something gives and at least one series spins out and hits the wall. Now the question becomes, is it the Need for Speed car that’s going to end the race DNF?

A rumor cropped up this week that EA was canceling its long-standing racing franchise due to corporate downsizing and brand underperformance. It was speculated that the sluggish sales of Need for Speed: Undercover, coupled with the extreme expense of keeping three teams working at all times in order to assure an annual entry into the title was just too much, and that EA would rather focus its resources elsewhere. In short, the company was looking to cut and run from one of its more troubled franchises.

Turns out though, like so many rumors, this one contained a grain of truth, but didn’t get the whole story. After doing a bit more digging, Joystiq found out that EA wasn’t planning to scrap Need for Speed at all, but rather had decided to shut down the studio which is responsible for it. Apparently EA has decided that Black Box, the studio in charge of the NFS project (as well as Skate), just isn’t financially viable anymore, so the entity will be dissolved and its employees will be moved to the gargantuan Burnaby offices.

As for Need for Speed itself, how can it continue to exist if its team is gone? Well a source inside EA is saying that the series will be handed over to Criterion, and that future editions will likely run on the same engine that powers the Burnout games. So those worried about the series’ future should know that it’s in good hands.

It would appear that our worries about the end of a franchise are for naught, and that NFS will continue burning up the streets for the forseeable future, just with a new name on the case and in the opening credits. While we hate to see a studio close, tough economic times like these often call for sacrifice, so we just hope all the Black Box folks land on their feet. The good news is that the rumor’s been killed, the bad news is so has one of EA’s studios.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Killed

Is Factor 5 cutting staff?

Layoffs are tough no matter what industry you’re in, but they’re still a fairly uncommon experience in the world of gaming. Sure, from time to time you hear about a few people being let go or a studio closing (just check out page one of today’s story), but far more often you learn of studios adding talent and beefing up teams in order to get games released on time. Even more rare is when you hear of a major developer cutting loose a large amount of its staff, but it would seem that Factor 5 may be doing just that.

The word is that 37 people were relieved of their employment on Friday, December 12, meaning that half of the entire workforce was cut. The news comes on the heels of an outburst by Factor 5 animator Sam Baker stating that company employees hadn’t been paid in a month, lost their health benefits and were seeing projects being canceled left and right. Baker quickly deleted his original rant and replaced it with a more conciliatory post, which chalked up the original fervor as a "misinterpretation."

Now, with the word that cuts seem to be happening, it would appear that Baker’s original post (deleted and cleared from Google’s cache) is closer to the truth of the situation. The studio was once on top of the world as the creators or Rogue Squadron, but the huge flop of Lair and the fact that pretty much every studio is struggling right now means that Factor 5 is likely in dire straits. This one remains unconfirmed for now, but we expect the truth to come out any minute.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Very Likely

Has Home Already Been Hacked?

Home, Sony’s foray into the world of online social gaming communitites, is off to a bit of a rough start. First we were forced to wait near an eternity to get our hands on the public beta, and all throughout launch week folks have been complaining about an inability to get registered and signed in, as well as experiencing some bugs in the service itself and severe sexual harassment at the hands of the deviants and perverts who populate the series of tubes that is the Internet. Still, none of that matters if it turns out to be true that Home has effectively been hacked.

Almost immediately after home launched a user by the name of StreetskaterFU posted on his personal blog step-by-step instructions on how to allegedly crack into Home’s coding and start altering things and moving them around. Immediately thereafter, a user on PS3hax posted his own guide on how to use the hacking tools to change the posters and movies displayed around Home.

Unfortunately, due to our legal ways here at TGR, none of our staff has even considered jumping online and screwing around with Home’s innards, therefore we can’t say if this is the real deal or not. However, we’ve yet to see widespread mayhem and mischief in Sony’s virtual world, so we’re starting to think that either this whole thing is a ruse or it somehow only changes the settings on your own personal version of the service. Either way, it doesn’t seem to be affecting the rest of the public at large.

Thankfully the service hasn’t really been hacked. Can you imagine what a world we would live in if it had? How would all the guys get to bump and grind on the few female avatars and make constant lewd and inappropriate comments about their lady bits? I mean, you know the first thing a hacker is going to do is populate the whole world with flying penises, and there’s nothing that keeps people shut up in their homes quite as effectively as that.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Very Unlikely

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