The Week in Games: Aug. 17, 2007

News from the virtual world:

— DROP AND GIVE ME 50: Last month, gaming bloggers jumped on rumors that Microsoft was about to lower the price of the Xbox 360.

The source: circulars from Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, scheduled to be distributed last Sunday, in which the lower price was advertised. Some disgruntled stockboys (perhaps) ruined the surprise by scanning the ads and putting them online.

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The store chains and Microsoft kept quiet about the leak until last week. Then Microsoft bowed to the inevitable, slashing the price of the Xbox 360 Pro — the most widely available model — by $50, to $350.

The higher-end 360 Elite's price also dropped $50, to $450, while the lower-end 360 Core fell by just $20, to $280.

Microsoft execs said the price cut was timed to come before the release of this fall's most likely hits, including September's "Halo 3."

Microsoft is giving "Halo 3" the full blockbuster treatment, with a marketing blitz that will look just like the kind of campaign you'd expect to see with a summer movie like "Spider-Man 3."

According to The Wall Street Journal, the "Halo" logo and Master Chief's helmet will adorn Mountain Dew cans, Burger King wrappers, Slurpee cups and even commercials for a new Pontiac model aimed at 18- to 34-year-old men. What, no Raid?

— SPECTOR VISION: Game designer Warren Spector is best known for his "Deus Ex" and "Thief" series, two dark, violent and decidedly adult franchises.

So a lot of industry observers were surprised last month when his Junction Point Studios was acquired by ... Disney?

"Who wouldn't want to be associated with that legacy?" Spector told The Associated Press. "Playing in those worlds would be pretty incredible."

In fact, his connections to animation go way back: His first professional project was "Toon," a tabletop role-playing game featuring cartoon characters.

"If I hadn't become a game designer," he said, "I wanted to be a Disney Imagineer."

Spector described video gaming as a "medium that demanded dark content," and said, "I've been typecast as a guy who makes that kind of game."

With Disney, however, "I won't get laughed out of the room if I pitch a funny game."

He couldn't say what games Junction Point is working on, although the studio will be developing original properties as well as games featuring Disney stars.

In particular, Spector said, he'd love to work with Uncle Scrooge and all the other ducks created by cartoonist Carl Barks in the 1940s.

"I'm like a kid in a candy shop," Spector said.

— RAW LAW: Here's a sentence I've used too many times over the last few years: "A federal judge blocked a (your state here) law that would have prohibited the sale of violent video games to children."

This month, the state is California and the law would fine retailers up to $1,000 each time they sold or rented violent video games to anyone under 18.

U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte said the law unconstitutionally restricted free speech.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed to appeal, saying, "Many of these games are made for adults, and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents."

Which is exactly what courts all over the country have been trying to tell state legislatures — that it's the job of parents, not game-store clerks, to decide which games kids should be allowed to play.

— NEW IN STORES: For many sports fans, the football season begins this week with the release of EA Sports' "Madden NFL 08" on virtually every platform other than your microwave oven. ... Atlus delivers a pair of role-playing games, "Persona 3" for the PlayStation 2 and "Luminous Arc" for the Nintendo DS. ... DS players also get Square Enix's "Heroes of Mana," Natsume's "Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon" and Disney's "High School Musical: Makin' the Cut." ... Atari serves up "Dungeons & Dragons Tactics" on the PlayStation Portable.