Games for the Younger Set Buena Vista, THQ, Activision, Vivendi Universal, Sony, and Nintendo debut titles for the 10-and-under crowd
With the proliferation of Teen- and Mature-rated titles, it's easy to think publishers are abandoning the kid market. But nothing could be further from the truth. At present count, more than 30 games in the Early Childhood and Everyone (E) categories are being introduced at EE3 this year.
The titles run the platform gamut and are largely based on well-known licenses and franchises. With the exception of Microsoft, which is keeping to a Teen and up strategy, the major platforms are rife with strong software-and, in Sony's case, hardware. Most of the games for kids are shipping in either mid- or late summer or fall..
First-party plans get kid friendly
Both Sony and Nintendo will release titles that cater specifically to the younger masses, but their focus on kids isn't limited to software. Sony's (West Hall, Booth #2416) EyeToy is a game player's dream come true. It uses a USB videocamera with motion-tracking to let people film themselves and then become a character in a game. The EyeToy will ship with 12 minigames and will include video messaging.
Finding inspiration from the Internet, Sony is also debuting NEOPETS: The Darkest Faerie for PSOne. The game is based on Neopets.com, the website where people raise virtual pets. Sony's game invites players to enter the land of Neopia on an adventure to rid the world of the evil Darkest Faerie. The company is banking on the popularity of Neopets.com to drive game sales: The website is reportedly the fastest-growing youth community in the world, with more than 50 million registrations in the past three years.
Nintendo (West Hall, Booth #2816) is introducing GameCube titles based on a few of its biggest franchises: Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Mario Golf, and Kirby's Air Ride. In Mario Kart, Nintendo's popular cast of characters reunites for exciting racing. But this time, players will race two characters at a time-one in the front driving, and the other in back sabotaging other racers. Mario Golf injects the stuffy game for rich businessmen with arcade-style play. And from the creators of Super Smash Brothers Melee comes Kirby's Air Ride, the little pink hero's first racing game.
Buena Vista Goes Spying
Buena Vista Games (formerly Disney Interactive, South Hall, Booth #924) has nine titles on the floor for GBA and PC/Mac formats. Heading the list is Spy Kids 3: Game Over (GBA, PC), based on the popular movie franchise and timed for release of this summer's latest installment in the Spy Kids films. Players take on the role of brother/sister team Carmen and Juni. Their mission: to stop a dastardly inventor who has created an online game that literally sucks players into the world of videogames.
Next up is Kim Possible: Revenge of the Monkey Fist for GBA, the first game adventure featuring Disney's newest animated teen hero. Kids will follow the gadget-wielding Kim around the world as she searches for her best friend Ron Stoppable and uncovers Dr. Drakken and Monkey Fist's nefarious plans to take over the world.
Reaching into the Disney mythos, Princess Cinderella's Castle Designer (PC, Mac) lets young girls join Cinderella to create beautiful 3D castles in fantastical environments, including a snowy wonderland and high mountain peaks.
ToonTownOnline for PC gives kids a taste of massively multiplayer online gaming as they join thousands of other Toons (i.e., players) to protect ToonTown from the evil Cogs. This online adventure is currently playable at www.toontown.com.
Other Buena Vista titles include Brother Bear (PC, GBA), Disney Princess Horse Show (PC, Mac), Wiggly Party (PC, Mac), Wiggly Bay (PC, Mac), and Lizzie McGuire (GBA).
THQ Hits Big with Nickelodeon/ Disney
THQ (Petree Hall, Booth #4001) continues to leverage its highly successful Nickelodeon partnership this year, with several new titles based on the kids network's properties.
Rugrats Go Wild (GBA, PC) brings the Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys-two of Nickelodeon's hottest animated series-together for the first time. The game is based on the summer's upcoming feature film of the same name. Fairly Odd Parents: Breakin' Da Rules (PS2, GameCube, PC, GBA), based on the hit Nickelodeon series about a boy and his fairy godparents, sends hero Timmy Turner on a mission to recover all the pages from "Da Rules" book and to restore his godparents' powers. SpongeBob SquarePants (PS2, GameCube, GBA) lets kids join the big-tongued sponge dude on his latest game adventure along with friends Patrick StarFish and Sandy Cheeks. THQ rounds out its Nickelodeon offerings with The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Jet Fusion (PS2, GameCube) and Rocket Power Zero Gravity Zone (GBA, PS2, GameCube).
Perhaps the most intriguing of the THQ/Nickelodeon offerings is Tak and the Power of JuJu (PS2, GameCube, GBA). This original THQ creation stars Tak, a shaman's apprentice, in a challenging and humorous action adventure in which magic actually works. Nickelodeon is currently evaluating Tak as a possible cartoon series.
THQ is also strengthening its licensed offerings with such games as Finding Nemo (PS2, GameCube, Xbox, GBA, PC, Mac), the game version of Pixar's newest computer-animated feature about little fish in a very big pond. The game's release will be concurrent with the expected summer blockbuster. Completing the list are Disney's Princesses (GBA) and Power Rangers (GBA, PC).
Vivendi Universal Brings Barbie, Polly Pocket to Life
The Barbie doll franchise is one of the most successful in toy history, and it continues its dominance in the young girls' market. Vivendi Universal Games (South Hall, Booth #1200) plans to bring that dominance to the interactive market with five new titles, beginning with Barbie Horse Adventures Series (PS2, Xbox, GBA, PC, Mac). This suite of games will include Wild Horse Rescue, Blue Ribbon Race, and Mystery Ride. All games feature action, horse racing, and mystery.
Other planned Barbie titles include Barbie of Swan Lake: The Enchanted Forest, Barbie Beauty Boutique, Barbie Mermaid Adventure, and My Scene, all for the PC.
Polly Pocket! Super Splash Island (GBA) marks Polly Pocket's videogame debut and offers young girls fun-filled hours of fashion and surprise at Super Splash Island as they work their way to the Giant Water Slide.
Activision Skates into the Kids Market
Disney Extreme Skate Adventure (PS2, GameCube, GBA) brings skateboarding and Activision (South Hall, Booth #1224) into the kids realm. In Extreme Skate, players create their own skater and then skateboard through the various worlds of Disney, including The Lion King, Tarzan, and Toy Story. They can also skate as some of their favorite characters, such as Buzz Lightyear and Simba.