Rumor: Bet on Black

Back in January, when we first heard the rumblings about a new version of the Xbox 360 console hitting the market, we were skeptical. Microsoft is always screwing around with their products, attempting all kinds of Frankensteins and "what ifs" in their secret labs. That rarely means those mutations of existing products see the retail light of day, however. Well, this one might. Gameinformer.com has reportedly confirmed from several retailers that the all-black 360, tentatively called the Zephyr, will hit shelves on May 1 at $479. (The current core unit is $299) I know what you are thinking: "That's reaching PS3 prices!!" Well, yeah. The thing has a 120-gig hard drive and the console "bling" of choice, an HDMI port, which allows for a better hi-def setup. Curiously, no word on whether this will have a built-in HD-DVD drive, the hi-def David to Sony's Blu-ray Goliath.

Maybe I was ... wrong?

Remember last week when I said, in response to pending video-game legislation, it would be pretty much impossible for the video-game ratings board, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, to play an entire game before giving the title a rating? The ESRB may think otherwise. The organization has posted an ad on Gamerdad.com looking for full-time game reviewers (the jobs are in New York City and parents are preferred, we believe) as opposed to the part-time employees they use now.

"Having full-time raters will allow for each one to have greater experience actually reviewing content and recommending ratings, given the increased amount of time each one would spend doing it," said ESRB president Patricia Vance in a statement.

We still don't like this capitulation business, but err ... uh ... sounds like a decent gig nonetheless.

Nintendo keeps swinging

The NPD Group's videogame hardware and software sales numbers are probably the most followed by industry and gamers. In the January (Dec. 31-Feb. 3) figures, everyone got paid, but Nintendo smacked its competition around a bit. According to the research firm, Nintendo moved 435,503 Wiis, while the Xbox 360 served 294,000, with the Playstation 3 selling 244,000 units. Not bad for all three consoles especially since January is pretty much a snooze fest for new game titles. Total figures to date for the big three look like this: Xbox 360: 4.8 million, Wii: 1.5 million, and the PS3: 933,000. These are all strictly domestic figures, by the way.

Contact Rob Watson at rwatson@phillynews.com.