Outrageous & Unconfirmed - The Big N's next move, the Dashboard's face lift, and more

Outrageous & Unconfirmed - The Big N's next move, the Dashboard's face lift, and more

Welcome to the debut edition of Outrageous and Unconfirmed, a weekly roundup of ridiculousness and rumors from the video-game scene. Every Friday, I'll run through the week's game stories and let you know what's real and what's not.

So, without further ado:

Nintendo: Moving Forward?

At first, the Wii had a unique market position: It was the only console that offered motion controls, and it was also far more friendly to families and casual gamers than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. All you had to give up were the HD graphics, and most people didn't have HDTVs anyway. The rest is history; in terms of console sales, Nintendo mopped the floor with the competition this generation. Despite their flashier processors, the truly "next generation" consoles struggled to catch up.

Fast-forward five years, however, and that market advantage is gone. Sony and Microsoft have added motion peripherals (and the requisite childish games) to their consoles, and HDTVs are fast becoming ubiquitous (largely because no one sells the standard-def variety anymore). The Wii is starting to look like an underpowered toy with a dearth of third-party support, and upgrading it to a "Wii HD" would represent nothing but playing catch-up with the more powerful consoles. If it wants to retain the lead in the console market, and especially if it wants to recapture serious gamers, Nintendo is going to have to announce something innovative fairly soon.

Outrageous & Unconfirmed - The Big N's next move, the Dashboard's face lift, and more

I want a full-body suit that telegraphs your every move. (Just think about how much fun—and lawsuit-provoking—fighting games would become.) In June, we'll see what Nintendo came up with, according to a rumor that's been winding its way around the Internet. Supposedly, the company will announce its next-generation machine at E3 in June, and it will be "significantly more powerful" than even the PlayStation 3.

Obviously, this raises more questions than it answers: What kind of motion controls will it have? Is Nintendo planning on keeping its family-friendly orientation, or will it make a play for hardcore gamers? Does "significantly more powerful" denote a truly significant boost, one that will improve gameplay in a meaningful way and kick off a whole new generation—or does it just mean that the console will see a bunch of slightly improved Xbox and PlayStation ports from the last five years? What will the backward-compatibility situation be? (One rumor claims full compatibility with Wii games, but I'd like full access to my Virtual Console library, too.) What about 3D? Will they finally make a Zelda game with voice acting?

Most important of all, will Blizzard finally take a break from messing around with World of Whatever-it's-called and put Rock N' Roll Racing on Virtual Console in honor of the new hardware? Please?

In the meantime, Nintendo might be chopping the price of the aging Wii from $200 to $150, according to yet another rumor. That's good news for folks who aren't serious about gaming but wouldn't mind having a (nearly obsolete) console around, or for gamers who haven't had the budget to keep up with the current generation. When you take all the great games the Wii has hosted in a half-decade and group them together today, $150 isn't a bad entry price at all: There's Super Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess, Metroid Prime 3, and No More Heroes, not to mention Netflix capability and access to Virtual Console . . .

Rumor-wise, it's been a good week for Nintendo fans of all stripes.

Status: Unconfirmed.

Is Portal 2 Coming Early?

I can't wait for Portal 2, and as it turns out, I might not have to: Valve has been dropping some serious hints that the title might come out before its scheduled release April 19.

The Valve website aperturescience.com has posted a countdown clock that will hit zero at noon Eastern today. In addition, a Steam Bit.Trip Beat update was accompanied by a message from Gaijan Games that "Like the other twelve games in Valve's Potato Sack, it is rumored that playing BIT.TRIP BEAT between now and Portal 2's 'scheduled' release date might increase the chances that Portal 2 is released early. Interesting idea . . ."

Outrageous & Unconfirmed - The Big N's next move, the Dashboard's face lift, and more

Of course, if any game is worth waiting for, Portal 2 is. It has big shoes to fill, Valve is capable of filling them, and no other game has matched the original Portal for sheer puzzle genius. But I do believe I'm still owed some cake, and the sooner that debt is paid, the better.

Status: Sort of.