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The official story: Apple had not returned requests for comment as of press time.
What we heard: Of all the products on the market, few engender as much fanatical loyalty as the iPod. Sony was clearly hoping for something similar when it introduced the sleek PlayStation Portable in March of last year, touting that it played games and video, while the iPod didn't.
Last October, Apple removed one of those advantages when it launched the fifth-generation video iPods. Since then, speculation has swirled that the Silicon Valley company is readying an iPod that could play things other than Brick and Parachute, two of the rudimentary games that come with the ubiquitous handhelds.
This week, GameSpot learned that there may be more to the Apple-game rumors than mere Mac-mad daydreams. A tech-sector recruiter contacted the GS NewsDesk with an interesting story of a prospective hire that got away. Recently, when the recruiter made an offer to a software engineer, the engineer turned the offer down--saying he was being "heavily recruited by Apple."
According to the engineer, an Apple hiring manager named Mike Lampell is heading up a group inside Apple's storied iTunes division. The group is specifically hiring for "C/C++ coders with a 'gaming background.'" The engineer says the project in question was described to him as "super secret," and Apple would not even tell him the exact nature of it until he had been hired and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
So how credible is this story? The recruiter's credentials are beyond reproach, leaving the engineer as the wild card. Currently, Apple is only publicly listing one position with "game" in the job title, a "Consumer & Games Partnership Manager" in its Santa Clara, California offices. Strangely though, when one searches for a position with "game" in its description on Apple's job-listing database, no results come up--even though the Consumer & Games Partnership Manager position has the word "game" in the text. A fairly exhaustive review of the software engineer positions found none looking for game experience.
However, the mention of Lampell gives the story some credibility. Lampell is a known developer who used to work at LucasArts, where he was a technical director on several major projects, including Star Wars Republic Commando. Lampell was laid off in August 2004 when LucasArts culled its development department in the first of a series of cost-cutting measures. However, GameSpot could not confirm his current employment at Apple, since attempts to elicit comment from the company had gone unanswered as of press time.
Bogus or not bogus?: If Apple is doing game R&D, it sure is doing a good job keeping it quiet.