It's been a little while since we last heard anything from the Battle Geek Plus crew of Channel Awesome -- just over five months, in fact.
After finishing up the main bulk of the Mega Man X series (and taking a slight detour into Mega Man Soccer town), there are two logical places to go: If you're following the chronology of game series as they were introduced, then you go to Mega Man Legends, but if you're following the chronology of the in-game timeline, then it's Mega Man Zero, and it's in Neo Arcadia that Ryan finds himself today.
One thing that I find interesting here is that I remember the way the announcement came quite differently.
I wish the archives of the site went back far enough to show it in greater detail (though the Internet Archive has the original discovery of the game as reported by Mega Man Outpost; do a search for "December 3rd, 2001XX" and "December 6th, 2001XX", and continue on up to see the mystery unfold), the announcement from Capcom was not quite as bold and declarative as Ryan's description here. There was originally an early trickle of some screens and I think the cover art, along with the title "Rockman Zero."
But beyond that, it was conjecture for a short time there. The character certainly didn't look like Zero, aside from a handful of almost superficial details. There was his trademark flowing hair, but it wasn't quite the same, and Dynamo proved in Mega Man X5 that the crimson Hunter didn't have a monopoly on explosions of hair from beneath one's headgear (and Axl would reinforce that further later on). He was red, but... well, that just poured into the same logic leaps that led people to claim Zero himself was rebuilt from Proto Man and/or Rush's parts ("AAARRF!").
Of course, then there's the most obvious detail: "Just look at the name, it's right there! Duh!"
Which in most cases would be more persuasive, but at the same time, this was Capcom, who had already shown a penchant for creating prequels for their popular franchises with "zero" in the title -- specifically, Street Fighter Zero (Street Fighter Alpha in the west, which of course spawned a whole series under that title) and Resident Evil Zero, and for good measure, there was also a Game Boy Advance port of Final Fight called Final Fight One. Much later, there was also Dark Void Zero.
Suffice to say, it hardly seemed like an open-and-shut case. We had a hunch it was Zero, somehow, of course, but it wasn't definitive right out of the gate, leading to a fair bit of speculation for a day or two.
Speaking of those fun times, you can find some of our coverage from before The Mega Man Network was The Mega Man Network, on the Internet Archive's logs of Mega Man X Online here and here (with our early page for the game here).
Not to steal Ryan's thunder, but man, that brought back some memories! And if you've got any memories of when Mega Man Zero was first revealed, feel free to comment below and/or on the video's YouTube page!