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Like undead creatures in the video game

WarCraft

, it's the rumor that just won't die: French media conglomerate

Vivendi

(V) - Get Visa Inc. Class A Report

is said to be chatting up

Microsoft

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in a deal to sell off its video-game publishing unit.

Debt-strapped Vivendi has been rumored to be seeking a buyer for the publisher of games including

Warcraft

and

Diablo

as far back as last year, when its chief executive, Jean Marie Messier, was ousted. This week, the rumor resurfaced, and centered on Microsoft, as Vivendi has been gearing up to sell off chunks of the company to pare down debt.

Microsoft, meanwhile, may looking to bolster its lineup of games to justify its multibillion-dollar investment in video games for its game console, the Xbox, and for its online division, Xbox Live. The company also has been linked to potential acquisitions of Japanese game publishers Sega and Namco, as well as

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Activision

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, in recent months. Fueling recent rumors was the departure of Sega's North American chief, Peter Moore. Microsoft tapped Moore to be corporate vice president in charge of sales and marketing in Europe and Japan for the Xbox and PC games divisions.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment. Vivendi Universal Games didn't return calls for comment.

"Microsoft is a likely acquirer," said Soundview Technology games analyst Shawn Milne. But he added, "I don't think it's a slam-dunk." Milne said Microsoft may not immediately be in the market for new acquisitions just months after it purchased game developer Rare from Nintendo last September for $375 million in cash. Rare developed the

Donkey Kong

game franchise.

Analysts say the sale, which has been the topic of industry-wide rumors for at least six months, is not likely to fetch Vivendi more than $1.1 to $1.5 billion, contrary to earlier speculation of a $2 billion price tag.

Another rumored suitor for Vivendi's unit is game-publishing giant

Electronic Arts

(ERTS)

, although talks between the two companies have yet to happen, according to a source.

Separately, trading-floor rumors in Europe surfaced Wednesday morning regarding Microsoft's snapping up a stake in

Nokia

.

In afternoon trading, Microsoft shares were up 31 cents, or 0.7%, at $49.13. Vivendi shares were up 18 cents, or 1.1%, at $17.06.