Rumor Killers: December 30

Rumor Killers

Is Home ever coming out of beta?

After years of hype, speculation and delays, Sony finally released Home earlier this month — in beta. The "open beta" was meant to allow all PS3 owners a chance to check out the new service, while still providing Sony plenty of cover if there were bugs and glitches that had yet to be fixed. Because we all know that nothing wipes away the stench of failure quite like saying, "Well, it’s still in beta, so there are going to be a few kinks left to work out." At that point we all just nod our heads, mutter "Oh yeah, that’s right" under our breath, and then move on with our lives. But the question then becomes, when will the service move out of beta and into its final release? The answer, apparently, is perhaps never.

In the latest Kotaku video podcast, Home director Jack Buser has gone on the record as saying that Sony doesn’t really know when the service will reach its final maturation point, and that it might remain in beta "indefinitely." Buser also took some time to talk about bandwidth issues, the future of the service, and even the ever-so-sticky issue of Crecente’s caveman beard.

What does permanent beta mean to the average gamer? Well it would seem to be not a whole lot. Unlike a game, Buser believes that Home is not one of those things that will ever stop adding content, therefore it is appropriate to keep the "beta" tag. Of course, this way Sony can hide behind that qualifying word anytime new content is added and everything goes massively wrong.

The service itself is not exactly setting the world on fire, with many seeing it as little more than a place to be sexually harassed by rude teenagers and a place where Sony can slowly drain your wallet for microtransactions on everything from t-shirts to new places to live. The service still has potential, with the possibility of gathering with friends to watch movies or play games, but for right now it’s just an ever-so-slightly less creepy version of Second Life. Oh well, at least it’s just in beta, I’m sure the final product will be much more reasonable and mature.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Very Likely

Is Free Radical for sale?

Last week there was a flurry of activity as the gaming world struggled to unravel the mystery of what was going on with Free Radical Design. It was first reported that the studio was set to close, but those rumors were soon refuted and we instead learned that company founder Steve Ellis was leaving the studio to create another, known as Pumpkin Beach. The whole sordid affair is recounted on the Unofficial Free Radical blog:

"Sources explain Dave Doak had left Free Radical Design a month ago. He and Steve Ellis are now looking at creating a new game developer company called Pumpkin Beach. Little is known about their plans for this company but a website, http://www.pumpkinbeach.com/, has been reserved. It is possible TimeSplitters 4 could be sold to this new company. Maybe this new company was created as a rescue for TimeSplitters 4 but the lack of publisher support makes the idea a risky one.

During the meeting roughly 20 staff positions were offered into the new company for people at Free Radical Design. Codemasters and Monumental Games were also at the hotel used to hold the meeting to ask for CVs and applications for anyone who was interested."

In light of all this we sat and waited for word on what was going to happen to the company, wondering if it would be simply closed or if another fate was in store. We’ve finally learned that while the studio still exists, it is now officially up for sale. Also, things don’t look good for those folks still working at the company, as 140 "redundancies" have been identified and will be let go any day now, leaving only 40 folks to run what’s left of the studio. The smart money says that the suddenly small house will quickly be gobbled up by a big developer or publisher and likely disbanded, so we may have seen the last of Free Radical, after all.

The company itself has had its ups and downs; on the one hand being the studio behind the cult favorite Timesplitters series, but also being the company responsible for the utterly abysmal Haze. The rumor is that Ellis took Timesplitters 4 with him when he left, leaving the studio with no projects left to create. There had been speculation that the company was working on Star Wars: Battlefront III, but that seems all but impossible now.

So this one’s confirmed, and if you happen to be in the market for your very own game studio, I know at least one place that would be willing to sit down and have a chat.

TGR Verdict: Rumor Confirmed

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