January 22, 2009 / 8:42 PM / in 9 years

New game genre taps into players' creativity

<p>An EA representative demonstrates the game's mechanics of the title "Spore" to journalists at a demonstration in New York February 13, 2008.Lucas Jackson</p>

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Enabling videogame players to help make games as well as play them is becoming more than just a fad due to Electronic Arts' "Spore" and Sony Computer Entertainment's "LittleBigPlanet."

New expansions of "Spore" from Electronic Arts' Maxis studio continue to put creativity in the hands of gamers, and a sequel is in the works for "LittleBigPlanet," both of which stand out with their user-generated content.

"Spore" is essentially a collection of editing tools that allows players to create creatures and then guide them through evolution with over 65 million player-made creatures, spaceships, and buildings so far posted on Spore.com.

After unleashing "Spore" on the PC, "Spore Creatures" on Nintendo DS and "Spore Origins" on mobile phones last September, EA has a quartet of new games planned for this year.

"Spore Galactic Creatures," the first expansion pack for the PC game, will ship this spring while "Spore Creature Keeper," a stand-alone PC game aimed at younger gamers, is set for summer.

Nintendo gamers will get a pair of more action-oriented titles this fall, including "Spore Hero" for Wii and "Spore Hero Arena" for Nintendo DS.

While the popular franchise "The Sims" and its many expansion packs and cross-platform extensions have sold over 100 million units worldwide, Lucy Bradshaw, vice president in charge of production at EA Maxis, said "Spore" is EA's number one new game launch in history and the fastest-selling EA game ever.

Bradshaw said global sales of all "Spore" games have topped 3 million units with an additional 6 million free downloads of the basic "Creature Creator" editing tool.

CREATIVITY ATTRACTS NEW PLAYERS

Michael Pachter, videogame analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, estimates that EA has sold about 2.2 million copies of the PC game alone globally. He believes these new "Spore" titles will help offset the $50 million in development costs EA accrued over the past five years.

But even with these new expansions, "Spore" still has a very long way to go to become a mainstream consumer sensation like "The Sims." Part of the problem was the five years of hype from EA that set a very high bar.

""Spore" did not live up to the wildest expectations," said Dean Takahashi, videogame editor, VentureBeat.com. "So far, its sales in the low millions show that it hasn't yet lived up to the hope that it would be a franchise like "The Sims.""

But while players are hard at work on user-generated content, EA has focused on new game creations it hopes will sell.

"Spore Galactic Adventures" ups the ante by giving players the same technology EA Maxis used to create the original game so that in addition to sculpting worlds, gamers will be able to craft their own gaming adventures and share them with others.

"It's really easy to make level-jumping puzzle games or to send players through a maze to save the princess or set up multiple-act adventures," said Bradshaw.

Players can even create dialogue for characters to unveil backstory during an adventure or explore space in custom-made ships and beam down to planets for further exploration.

"We made "Spore" powerful enough to enable players to make their own content and now we've made something that enables players to use that content to tell their own stories and make their own games," said Morgan Roarty, executive producer, "Spore Galactic Adventures."

Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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