News from the virtual world:
BUNGIE JUMPS: It's always sad when a seemingly happy marriage breaks up. We still haven't gotten over Brad and Jen, and the split between Microsoft and Bungie Studios may be even more shocking.
Bungie which Microsoft acquired in 2000 is the developer of "Halo," by far the most lucrative franchise on the Xbox. "Halo 3" pulled in more than $300 million during its first week in stores, and drove a surge in Xbox 360 sales. When word got out last week that Bungie would be leaving Microsoft, the big question was: Why?
"Bungie is like a shark," founder Jason Jones said. "We have to keep moving to survive. We have to continually test ourselves, or we might as well be dolphins. Or manatees."
Microsoft Game Studios Vice President Shane Kim kept a stiff upper lip, saying, "We are supporting Bungie's desire to return to its independent roots." Microsoft will hold a minority stake in Bungie, and the studio will work on future projects within the Microsoft-owned "Halo" universe. Bungie President Harold Ryan said it will continue to develop games exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs "for the foreseeable future."
RARE BIRD: Thinking about getting the kids a Wii for Christmas? Better start shopping now: Nearly a year after its debut, Nintendo's distinctive console is still hard to find. "We're working very hard to make sure that consumers are satisfied this holiday," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told The San Jose Mercury News, "but I can't guarantee that we're going to meet demand. As a matter of fact, I can tell you on the record we won't."
Fils-Aime said the shortage isn't the result of production problems. "Every time we put more into the marketplace, we sell more," he said.
Perhaps you already own a Wii and your problem is that you just can't hold onto the remote. Your prayers have been answered: Nintendo is now offering the Wii Remote Jacket, a rubbery doohickey that wraps around the controller to give you a better grip. The jacket will be included with all future Wiimotes; you can also get one from www.nintendo.com.
AY, CARAMBA. Electronic Arts' forthcoming "The Simpsons Game" features an assortment of video-game parodies, such as "Medal of Homer" and "Neverquest." But some companies, apparently, can't take a joke.
"I was always under the impression that when you do parody, it's a sign of respect," "Simpsons" designer Greg Rizzer told the Web site CVG. "If we make fun of 'Grand Theft Auto,' we're not going to hurt the sales of 'Grand Theft Auto.' ... But yeah, we've definitely had some reactions we've had to pull stuff from the game."
On the other hand, the creators of "Guitar Hero" appreciated the tribute. "I don't know if you've seen 'Sitar Hero,"' Rizzer said. "The guys from Harmonix loved it and we sent them 20 copies of the poster."
GRATEFUL 'DEAD': HBO will probably never bring back "Deadwood," but at least two of its actors are getting back together. Timothy Olyphant and Powers Boothe are reuniting to provide voices for "Turok," Touchstone's upcoming dinosaur-survival adventure.
Other Hollywood tough guys contributing to "Turok" include Ron Perlman, William Fichtner and Donnie Wahlberg. Turok himself will be played by Gregory Norman Cruz from TNT's "Saving Grace."