Nintendo aims new games at kids and adults

The games set for GameCube’s launch in November aren’t just child’s play to Nintendo.

The gaming giant, traditionally known for aiming its core characters like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. at young gamers, has arrived at slightly different formula for the first GameCube games. Look for more sports, role-playing and mature games to come from Nintendo.

Eternal Darkness, for example, is an 18-years-and-up title produced by Canadian developer Silicon Knights Inc., located in St. Catherines, Ont. (Nintendo bought a stake in the company last year). The game, pegged by the company as a “psychological thriller,” is a combat and role-playing game (RPG) set in different time periods spanning thousands of years. Players are warned to watch their “sanity meter.” If it drops below a certain level, characters in the game can actually begin to hallucinate. The title will ship a month after launch in December.

Pikmin (the final name has yet to be determined) was developed by renowned software designer Shigeru Miyamoto. It’s a strategy game where a space traveler must piece together his ship with the help of indigenous intelligent plantlife called Pikmin.

“It doesn’t have to be a gory shoot-’em-up to appeal to an adult audience,” said Nintendo of Canada Ltd. spokesperson Lesley Short, during a sneak peek at the games Thursday. Nintendo games are skewing older because the gaming crowd is growing up, she added.

Those who got hooked on the video games of the 1980s are now adults and may have kids of their own. According to a 2000 survey released by the Interactive Digital Software Association, based in Washington, D.C., the average age of a gamer is 28, and 90 per cent of games are purchased by adults over 18.

Nintendo may have paid more than lip service to its aging audience, but its core remains the young crowd. According to Short, the company’s primary audience is 12 to 17.

Games like Luigi’s Mansion, a Mario Bros. meets Ghostbusters title, and Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game featuring some of Nintendo’s perennial characters, are designed to appeal to the younger gamers – which is not to say those a little longer in the tooth wouldn’t enjoy them, said Short. “People get the impression that because it’s cartoon-based (characters), it’s only for kids. That’s not true.”

Conspicuous by his absence in the new line of games is Nintendo mascot Mario. “He’s getting a bit of a makeover,” said Short. The character is being overhauled and will make an appearance in 2002.

Nintendo is saving its next major round of announcements until next month, when it will hold its SpaceWorld game convention in Japan. The three GameCube colours will be unveiled (to date, the Cube has been demonstrated in purple only), and there will be more information on the system’s Internet capabilities. GameCube will not ship Internet-ready, confirmed Short, but modem and broadband adapters will be available at some point.

“The online team is working on the GameCube but not for the launch. We don’t feel the market is quite ready for that just yet,” she said, referencing the trouble Sega had with the now-defunct Dreamcast and its online strategy.

Other titles to arrive in time for the holiday season are Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet, NBA Courtside 2002 and Wave Race Blue Storm. First party titles will retail for $69.95 and third party titles will probably sell for $10 more, said Short.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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