It’s been an eventful sporting weekend thanks to the NBA and NHL drafts, and there were some interesting tidbits in the gaming world as well.

Halo:  Reach Could Use Natal Technology?
According to an interview in The Seattle Times Bungie Studios own Harold Ryan noted that the upcoming Bungie project could be compatible with Project Natal.  While Ryan speculated that it certainly could happen, he never said that it would or that any plans to do so were in the works.  He merely made the comment while praising the Natal technology.  FPS fans should try to talk themselves off the ledge.  The idea that Bungie would release a shooter with any kind of motion control seems like folly given their loyal online community.

Xbox 360 Pro Could Vanish?

The rumor mill atTeamxbox.com is hard at work, speculating that the “Pro” SKU could disappear this summer and be replaced by a lower-priced Elite. This seems to me like a win-win for gamers and MS. Gamers get the Elite and it’s 120-GB drive (along with what seems to be sturdier hardware in general) for the same price while Microsoft lowers their number of different SKUs by 1, which should help their manufacturing costs.

Minnesota Drafts Rubio #5, Flynn #6

This is probably more fanfare than even the biggest Jonny Flynn fans would expect surrounding his selection, thanks to the fact that the Timberwolves selected Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio one pick before the Syracuse floor general.  This is puzzling because neither are big enough to guard two-guards in the NBA, nor are either of them the kind of outside shooting threat that can stretch a defense.  And we’re supposed to think they can play together successfully?  Sorry David Kahn.  Not buying it.  I’m not drinking the Rubio Kool-Aid the way most are, and if they can get a couple of nice pieces for him I’d deal him in a heartbeat.  I would expect him to end up elsewhere before he plays an NBA game.  Whenever that may be.

Islanders Make The Smart Pick

Kudos to the New York Islanders, who might just have saved their franchise by picking John Tavares with the #1 pick in the NHL Draft.  A franchise on the rocks in recent years, the Isles at least saved themselves from the scorn of their remaining faithful.  The pick was wildly applauded and rightly so.  That’s not a slight on Victor Hedman or Matt Duchene either.  Both have the potential to be phenomenal players.  I simply believe that Tavares is a cut above the same way that Crosby and Ovechkin have been in recent years.  Remember, Evgeni Malkin went #2 the year Ovechkin went #1.  A draft isn’t limited to one superstar.

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Every friday I will muse on stuff that for whatever reason, never became it’s own full-fledged post.  Here I will collect my random thoughts about gaming and sports and also comment about other stuff out there if I feel so inclined.   Starting… now.

Fight Night Round 4 Demo Impressions

Now, I haven’t really played a boxing game in a long time.  Fight Night 2004 is the last one I played for more than five minutes, so I’m hardly an expert on the genre.  That said, I found Fight Night Round 4 to be really enjoyable.  They’ve done a nice job honing the control scheme over the years, and it gives you a really natural feel when you’re in the ring.  The demo allows you to play three rounds as either Ricky Hatton or Manny Pacquiao which gives you just enough of a taste to want more.  Thankfully you can quickly select the “Rematch” option and keep boxing, rather than being kicked out to the menu every time. 

The gameplay itself feels silky smooth, and offers a mix of arcade and realism.  You’re not going to consistently land haymakers on your opponent but if you stun them you can wallop them with a signature punch using B.  That adds a certain theatrical element to things, as does the act of recovering from a knock down.  I would liken it to shooting free throws in the older NBA Live games with the sliders… only much more difficult.  At least on first glance.  I struggled to answer the count on more than one occasion, coming oh-so-close only to tweak the stick the wrong way and rubber-leg my way back to the mat.

EA has brought a substantial roster of boxers to the table, snatching greats such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and George Foreman out of their prime and rendering pixel-perfect recreations.  They also seem to have addressed complaints about a lack of depth with the Legacy Mode, allowing you to create and train up your own fighter.    This is a title I’m excited about and will probably pick up after it comes out at the end of June.

Activision Parting Ways With Sony?

To me this sounds crazy, but Activision CEO Bobby Kotick came out and made several comments that indicate the publisher may do just that.  He expressed concern about the development costs and time investments with the PS3 as opposed to the 360 and Wii as well as Sony’s refusal to do a price-cut and high royalties fees topping $500 million in 2008.

Losing Activision titles including favorites such as the Call of Duty and Guitar Hero series would be a serious blow to the PS3 which already has issues with it’s rate of software attachment.  They simply can’t afford to lose those kind of broad-appeal titles.

My gut tells me this is posturing from Activision due to their displeasure with Sony’s strategies.  Most likely they have expressed their concerns privately and had them fall on deaf ears.  As a result, you get public criticism.  I would be extremely surprised if this actually happened.

Think Before You Speak?

Microsoft might want to invest in muzzles.  Especially if high-level MS figures are going to keep coming out and talking about a “new console” coming out in 2010.  Twice this week word broke that MS was developing a new console for 2010, based around a “natural interface” which was believed to be the Project:  Natal device that was revealed at E3 recently.

Both times Microsoft had to come out and state that they were in fact not working on a new console and they believe that the 360 isn’t even at the halfway point of it’s life cycle.  Natal will be “an important part of this platform”, but not it’s own seperate hardware as was suggested by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this week.  This is good news for gamers who were ready to start firebombing the MS front offices.  Surely a company this large can figure out that while they have made huge progress in the console wars this generation, their lead is fragile at best.

You get the feeling that people who don’t actually grasp the difference between a new bundle and a new console entirely are speaking out of turn here, although Microsoft is expanding internal memory from 256 MB to 510 MB on the newer Arcade units.