2012 promises to be a massive year for gaming, and with at least two major consoles set for an E3 reveal, the rumours have been flying thick and fast. In fact, separating the fact from fiction and treading water in the sea of sensationalism has become an increasingly arduous task.
To this end, we've rounded up and dissected the hottest reports to hit this week... and when empirical analysis fails, we're going to pundit like crazy. We've linked to the stories in question to arm you with all the details you need, and since rumours are in the eye of the beholder, we'd absolutely love you guys to weigh in and let us know what you make of these sensational claims.
Blu-Ray For NeXtbox?
Kotaku's multi-part rumour hit the internet like a ton of bricks, and the first episode is definitely the most likely. Sources claim that Microsoft's next console will feature a Blu-Ray drive, and though it would be potentially embarrassing in the short term, adopting the tech would be a win-win situation for everyone concerned.
Microsoft would benefit from increased storage capacity and another feather in their all-round entertainment centre hat, whereas the Blu-Ray Disc Association (of which Sony is a member, not the owner) will enjoy an entirely new market for their films. Sony Pictures will also have a new market to peddle their wares to. So long as Microsoft isn't too proud to accept... or unless the DVR rumour is true... we can definitely see this happening. We can't imagine that MS will be keen to launch a new disc format after the HD-DVD fiasco.
Rumour Rating: Likely
NeXtbox To Block Pre-Owned Games?
Kotaku's rumour took a turn for the inflammatory, however, with the sensational allegation that the next-gen Xbox might refuse to play pre-owned games. We assume that this would theoretically involve linking discs to specific consoles and/or Gamertags with an online pass, but this would incur major printing costs and invite the potential to scupper entire game launches due to a simple printing error. Not to mention limiting users who can't or won't connect their consoles to the internet.
There's another, more valid reason why this probably won't happen. I don't want to go into the "are used games hurting the industry?" argument today (though I have taken a swing at it before), but it's worth noting that this move would effectively make games less valuable by definition. They become absolutely worthless as commodities, taking all artistic merit aside. Unless Microsoft were willing to drastically slash retail prices for new games, they run the risk of most gamers holding out even longer for price cuts than they do already and losing more money in the process. Plus, more to the point, many people simply wouldn't buy into the new console on principle considering that even the Wii U would resemble an 'open platform' in comparison. Like all hardware manufacturers, Microsoft are constantly tinkering around with new tech and ideas, so it's most likely that this is a brainstorming concept that may have been overheard (or even considered) at one point.
Stranger things have happened, though. With Ballmer in charge, anything is possible and the universe is a terrifying place.
Rumour Rating: Insane
Wii U & NeXtbox Power?
Two distinct rumours purport to out the processing power of both the Wii U and the next-gen Xbox. And, quite honestly, they're both impossible to confirm or deny.
IGN have heard that Microsoft's next console will be six times more powerful than the Xbox 360 thanks to a GPU based on the Radeon HD 6670 graphics card. This budget card definitely seems underpowered by PC standards, but the sub-£50 price bracket seems reasonable for a console and multiple custom modifications would allow it to perform much faster (with games optimised specifically for it to boot). The Xbox 360 Xenos GPU isn't directly comparable to any graphics card on the market, and the Nextbox GPU will likely also be modified beyond all recognition. Plausible then, if literally irrelevant.
Develop's Wii U rumour, on the other hand, suggest that Ninty's upcoming console will only be twice as powerful as an Xbox 360... which is contradicted by IGN's claim that the Nextbox will be 20% more powerful than the Wii U. The numbers don't add up, so someone has screwed up. More to the point, the Wii U hardware has been in a constant state of flux as Nintendo have faffed about with balancing performance and cost so this report could well be based on an outdated prototype.
So, basically, it doesn't matter. Yet.
Rumour Rating: Impossible to confirm, mutually exclusive, basically irrelevant
Nintendo To Rename The Wii U?
This is an interesting one. CVG have apparently (and circumspectly) heard that Nintendo is considering rebranding the Wii U in an effort to distance the new console from the Wii, as well as shedding some of the disappointment and confusion surrounding the godawful E3 2011 announcement.
There's definitely a ring of truth behind this report. Nintendo were forced to issue bright red stickers to distinguish the 3DS from the DS at retail, and to run the aggressive "This Is Not DS" advertising campaign in order to get confused consumers behind the device. The Wii U could potentially suffer from the same identity crisis as Wii owners struggle to justify another expense for a console that's overtly similar to one they already own.
We reckon that the rumour probably stems from some internal Nintendo discussions following the launch of the 3DS rather than a genuine statement of intent. The Wii U already has a public image and an identifiable brand, weak though it is. But a rebrand couldn't hurt, and you can bet that Ninty are weighing up their options.
Rumour Rating: Plausible, but unlikely
Syphon Filter 4 & God Of War 4 Set For February Reveal?
Yeah. This is probably happening.
I'd go into more details, but suffice to say that Syphon Filter 4 was definitely in development as of May 2011, and God Of War 4 rumours citing a September release date have been around for months. There's no smoke without fire, and though the reveal date could wobble by a month or two, this is probably on the cards. We'll find out very soon.
Rumour Rating: Likely
Microsoft To Retire Microsoft Points?
Finally, we have one of this week's very first rumours... and probably the most likely of them all. Inside Mobile Apps claim to have heard from sources who reckon that Microsoft plan to phase out their virtual currency in favour of straightforward credit card/Paypal transactions, bringing them in line with PSN and the iOS App Store. The Windows Phone 7 marketplace already uses real money instead of Microsoft points, and a further report from Eurogamer suggests that unused points cards can still be redeemed after the scheme is retired.
This Sunday's Why We Love article is going to take a much closer look at the situation as well as our relationship with the virtual currency, so watch this space.
Rumour Rating: Watch this space