News from the virtual world:

— ELITE BEAT: Hardcore gamers are buzzing over the Xbox 360 Elite, the updated console that Microsoft (MSFT ) will be introducing later this month.

The main draw is a 120-gigabyte hard drive, which will finally give you enough room to download all those "South Park" episodes off Xbox Live . The new black box will also come with a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) port and a high-def cable, all for $480.

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That's still $120 less than Sony's 60-gigabyte PlayStation 3 , but the Elite doesn't have the high-def DVD drive that many fans were anticipating. Gamers who already own a 360 can add on the hard drive, which will be sold for $180.

Microsoft also announced that the pile of movies and TV shows available on Xbox Live will be getting larger.

Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, A&E Network and National Geographic are among the companies that will be offering downloadable material, ranging from movies like "Braveheart" and "World Trade Center" to reality shows like "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

Xbox Live still has a way to go before it can compete with cable and satellite download services, but the library is growing.

— AUTO FOCUS: "Grand Theft Auto IV" is still six months away, but politicians are already taking a stand. An early trailer posted on the Internet by developer Rockstar Games featured lots of familiar New York City landmarks, from the Chrysler Building to the Statue of Liberty.

City Councilman Peter Vallone has already seen enough: "Setting 'Grand Theft Auto' in the safest big city in America would be like setting 'Halo' in Disneyland," he told the New York Daily News.

The buzz over the "GTA" trailer managed to drown out the mayhem going on in the boardroom of Take-Two Interactive (TTWO ), Rockstar's parent company.

Besides the controversy over the violent and raunchy content in "GTA" and other Rockstar titles, Take-Two has been bedeviled by accounting scandals and management woes over the last few years.

So it was not a huge surprise when shareholders finally rebelled, kicking out five members of the company's board of directors, including chief executive Paul Eibeler.

New chairman Strauss Zelnick promised that the new board would "revitalize Take-Two, focus on supporting and enhancing its creative output, improve its margins and ensure that the 2007 release pipeline meets expectations."

Meanwhile, Take-Two's critics crowed.

"The chickens have come home to roost for this company," said James Steyer of entertainment watchdog Common Sense Media , "and I say good riddance to these guys."

— DOUBLE FANTASY: Batman vs. Superman? Yawn. Alien vs. Predator? Whatever.

The showdown gamers have been waiting for is finally going to happen: Mario vs. Sonic, plumber vs. hedgehog. Probably the two most popular mascots in video-game history, the boys will finally duel later this year in "Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games ."

"Mario and Sonic have been respectful rivals since the early days of video games," said Shigeru Miyamoto , Mario's creator. "Now that they have been given the perfect opportunity to meet at the Olympic Games, we may finally learn who is actually faster."

The game is being developed for Nintendo's Wii and DS systems. Sega will publish it in North America and Europe, while Nintendo will deliver it in Japan.

But the big question may not be which mascot collects the most gold; it may be whether two industry giants can work together to create the first decent Olympic video game.

— NEW IN STORES: The Nintendo DS goes on cute overload with Majesco's "Cake Mania" and Square Enix's "Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales." ... Activision (ATVI) finally brings "Guitar Hero II" to the Xbox 360. ... A couple of older games get the Wii treatment: Ubisoft's "Prince of Persia: Rival Swords" (aka "The Two Thrones") and Eidos' "Bionicle Heroes." ... Sony (SNE) expands its karaoke franchise with "SingStar Pop," for the PlayStation 2 .