Sunday, May 31, 2009

Telecommunications giant behind ´ZuneX´ fake

The ´ZuneX´ rumour I recently reported about is a fake, I can exclusively reveal. It is an interesting fake, though, since it is perpetuated by German telecommunications giant and multinational corporation Deutsche Telekom AG, Europe's largest according to Wikipedia.

The German gaming site who posted the various ´ZuneX´ images, Mimbee, notes in their imprint that they are part of the Telekom's network. The Whois information for the domain confirm this. While I found it hard to believe that a multinational corporation would be behind such a fake, my research revealed that the gaming site is not even an outside commission job, but an in-house development. Apparently, their reasons for the stunt have nothing to do with hunting down cheap clicks, though, as a member of staff wrote to me in an email. Above everything else, it was meant to be satirical, they claimed.

I replied, voicing concern that a large corporation has joined the ranks of fifteen year-olds in their parents' basement by devising and perpetuating such a relatively elaborate fake. Their reply, again, contained no apology.

To this day, the site has not come clean on the fake. Quite the contrary. In a recent entry, the Telekom bragged about the reach of the story, including mentions in the Playboy, Yahoo, Boing Boing and various reputable gaming news sites.

In my mind, this episode is nothing more than a cheap attempt at getting clicks. It is flawed viral marketing by another multinational (remember Sony's attempt) and it will most likely become equally successful. And, for those people who know what the term means, that last comment was meant to be satirical.

It's one thing to have to debunk teenagers. It's quite another thing when someone like the Deutsche Telekom is leading you on, in a desperate hunt for page impressions.

EDIT You can read the original story in German over on my newsroom's blog.

Image Source:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Microsoft to enter handheld market?

Microsoft will announce a handheld gaming console at the E3 next month according to substantial rumours by Mimbee, a previously unknown German gaming site.

The rumour concerns ´ZuneX´, a Zune media player which doubles as a gaming console. Its alleged features include obviously dedicated software, as well as compatibility with Xbox Live Arcade and the recently announced cloud gaming service OnLive. It is said to feature MicroSD and SIM card slots, making at least some mobile phone functions likely.

Its tech specs are comparable to the original Xbox, at least in parts. The news site has since published a wealth of images, including a product shot, logo, a snapshot of a presentation, a snapshot of a hands-on session and five detail shots of a product sheet showing tech specs.

Of course, we need to ask the question whether the above images are real or just an elaborate fake. In my mind, ZX-1000 is too close a product code to the PSP. But that is nothing more than a hunch. There are further reasons to believe that the images are fake.

On the third image showing tech specs, under the heading ´Input´, there is the entry ´Customizable controll. A spelling mistake like this one is highly unlikely on a legitimate document of this type.

Also, an alleged Microsoft Office Twitter account is cited in the story which stated that "June 2009 will be an important month for Zune lovers" and later added: "New product launch, that's all I'm allowed to say. Hold off from buying an iPhone/Pre. :)"

This appears to be a mistake, though. The official Microsoft Twitter account in question is this one, as the above user admitted himself.

What is certain is that a German Xbox representative twittered: "As of today, I am really pissed that I'm not going to be at E3. Unfortunately, I can only say more on June 2nd." This could be entirely unrelated to the above rumour, though.

I was initially swayed to believe that the images were real. But the fact that the Twitter account is not an official Microsoft one makes them far less credible. The website also cannot be traced back to reliable Whois information. They claim to be a gaming site run by German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG. Given the very colloquial style of the site, I find this highly doubtful. T-Online's gaming site really does link to the site but calls it "a satirical video blog." Of course, I will investigate this further next week.

Finally, a spelling mistake in documents such as above is only a subtle indicator, but it makes me even more sceptical. I myself believe that the story is fake. What do you think? Do you find any other clues in the material above? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

EDIT There is a similar rumour about a revised Zune player codenamed "xYz", which is described as a "digital entertainment handheld". TeamXbox claims to have learned about the device from several inside sources.

Apparently, the device "sits somewhere in-between the Xbox and Zune platforms, offering both gaming and media playback, as well as Internet-related services, all in a portable format." The codename "xYz" is meant to symbolize that the device will act as a catalyst between those two platforms, Xbox and Zune.

Another source consulted for this story confirmed the development of such mobile device, at least as of December of last year. This source defined the Microsoft handheld as “unlike anything on the market today,” and said that the only way to describe it is to “think of a mashup of the Sony Mylo, the PSP, and the iPhone… errr, the iPod Touch; [the MS handheld] doesn’t need access to a phone network.” That last sentence was one of the juiciest comments made, since the source wanted to emphasize this device lacks access to a phone network and that’s why he changed the iPhone example with the iPod Touch.

Even if several analysts and publications have reported that Microsoft is planning to market its own smartphone, this second source told me not to expect any business application or user interface (UI) that resembles a smartphone. Furthermore, the source stressed:

“Although the Microsoft handheld is definitely a converged device, this is not a Zune Phone.” The source added: “Microsoft won’t compete with its Windows Mobile customers.”

There is far more information in the article itself, so head on over.

With the source and the article oozing journalistic integrity and, as such, reliability, this rumour appears far more credible to me than the one above. I have also been told by someone working directly for one of the current two handheld manufacturers that the spec sheet of the alleged ´ZuneX´ looks highly unusual.

EDIT I can exclusively reveal that the entire ´ZuneX´ rumour and concerned documents are fake. For more, intriguing details please read my next post.

Source: Mimbee
Thanks to: Gameswelt (German)
Image Source:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nintendo to reveal Wii 2 soon, analyst believes

In an online article, English newspaper The Times speculates that Nintendo may soon have to detail plans for a successor to their current home console, for Wii 2, if you will.

The reason cited by the author is economic pressure, a highly controversial stance. Although market leader and clearly the most profitable of the three hardware manufacturers, Nintendo stock has also been affected by the economic crisis, the author notes.

Speculation over Nintendo’s development of a Wii 2 console has intensified as the company’s stock has crumpled and the industry approaches the closely watched E3 trade show in Los Angeles next month.

In a shock to the markets yesterday, Nintendo reported that its profits in 2008 were the strongest on record but said that it would struggle to repeat the performance as sales of its two main consoles — the Wii and the DS — level off and foreign exchange turmoil destroys margins.

The author is clearly very critical of the Wii console. The headline "Nintendo admits Wii is close to its ultimate level" appears to be a gross exaggeration of the assertion below that "the company believes that sales of the Wii console will grow by less than 1 per cent this year from the 26 million units last year and gave warning of a 3 per cent decline in sales of the DS from last year’s 31 million." Likewise, the article's assessment of Nintendo's line-up is a sober one.

The once seemingly boundless possibilities offered by the Wii’s innovative control system appear to be reaching their limits and the console is beginning to look underpowered compared with the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation3.

Hiroshi Kamide, of KBC Securities in Tokyo, said the weak-looking pipeline of Wii titles meant there would be a lot of attention on the next instalment of the Zelda games and when it was likely to be released. The series has produced a string of blockbusters for Nintendo and the announcement that the latest instalment may be in the shops by Christmas could be the “killer application” that Wii needs.

Nintendo's economic standing is unclear, at best. While news agency AFP reports that "Nintendo defies recession with record profits", Reuters reports that "Nintendo sees slowdown ahead". The company's shares really have slipped significantly. But it is important to understand that the share price had pretty much quadrupled in the period before. So, I guess, it all depends on whether Nintendo can continue to offer compelling software which will drive hardware sales further.

Also, the author is clearly highly critical of Nintendo. As mentioned above, the headline "Nintendo admits Wii is close to its ultimate level" is a bold interpretation of figures only. The company's most recent financial statement contains no assertion to the effect suggested by the headline. While the numbers are correct, the article also notes that Nintendo "is known for issuing hyper-conservative forecasts, only to exceed them triumphantly later in the year." This is a contradiction in terms.

But what about the article's reference to a Wii successor? In my mind, this argument is completely ridiculous. The hardware manufacturer under the most pressure is Sony, without a doubt. They went from "first to worst", as some analysts had predicted. The entire corporation is in a desperate financial situation and reliable rumours about a revised PlayStation Portable which will do away with Sony's proprietary UMD medium are a clear sign of that. If anyone is under pressure to announce a successor console, it's Sony. And they quite obviously will not, although a successor must already be under way.

With the PlayStation3, Sony may be committed to a ten year life cycle. But Microsoft will clearly pull a successor to its Xbox360 out of the hat before 2012 by the latest. The same goes for Nintendo. And if the PS3 isn't selling now, why should it be selling in three years time, when there will be two next-gen consoles out, which are both sure to surpass the PS3 in either hardware power or controller scheme or both.

On top of that, the argument is flawed in itself, I believe. How would annoucing a successor help any company sell their current product? If anything, consumers might hold off on buying the current model.

So, to sum things up, my predictions for E3 announcements are clear: no new consoles will be announced. Instead, there will be plenty of new peripherals shown for all three competitors. While Microsoft is highly likely to reduce their console's price tag further, Nintendo will not because they are still selling extremely well and Sony will not because the company's boss Stringer finally wants to see a meagre profit from his multi-billion investment.

If you are wondering, though, what a Wii 2 might look like, check out this neat mock-up.

Source: The Times
Thanks to: MaxConsole

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

´Crysis´ not coming to Wii

On their most recent release list mailed to journalists, Electronic Arts Germany listed the upcoming ´Crysis Maximum Edition´ as a Wii exclusive, prompting some bewilderment in the community. This is an error on part of the company. I have just spoken to a representative and they were not even aware of the mistake.

The official press page of Electronic Arts Deutschland lists the title as a Windows game. Just for reference, here is the release list and the entry in question.

Source: Electronic Arts Deutschland
Thanks to: Sadist

Saturday, May 02, 2009

´Conduit´ developer has more big plans for Wii

´Conduit´ developer High Voltage Software has more big plans for Wii. In a video interview with French site Nintendo-Master, the studio's Eric Nofsinger announced "two big ones" to be announced at E3.

Our goal with 'The Conduit' was to make a game that was the most graphically impressive for the Wii. Our goal with these upcoming games is to do some things that are very, very rare, even on the 360 or PS3. Some of things we are doing with the sheer number of enemies on-screen and things like that, are very impressive. We've got a demo we'll be showing there where the average number of enemies on the screen at any given time is 65 and then it goes up.

Here is the video interview in full.

Previous titles by the studio may only include ´The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy´ and the frankly appalling ´Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude´. But Wii-exclusive ´The Conduit´, to be released in June, clearly shows that they have entered another league, both in terms of immersive gameplay and extraordinary graphics. Here is the most recent trailer for the game.

We have gotten used to some studios talking up the Wii's graphical capabilities. In 2007, Epic Studios revealed that a licensee of their Unreal 3 technology was porting it to Wii. It is still unknown which studio and what kind of project are attached to this attempt.

Just over a year ago, Factor 5 president Julian claimed that the Wii engine he is working on will deliver no less than their PS3 engine used for ´Lair´:

We're almost done with the engine and it does everything that the PS3 did and then some, quite frankly.

In April of 2008, High Voltage Games claimed that Wii games can look as good as Xbox360 or PS3 titles:

Most of the games on the Wii look like crap. We want to change that, so we've invested heavily in our Wii tech over the past year. (...) With Conduit, we are trying to make a Wii game that looks like a 360 title.

Will they deliver? If all the games mentioned above can match or surpass ´The Conduit´, then the answer is a clear yes. But whether there is a market for these games is the question far more relevant to the console's long-term portfolio.

Source: Nintendo-Master (French)
Thanks to: Kombo