NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist snowboarder Shaun White is turning away from the slopes and concentrating on skateboarding — in a new video game.
It is new video turf for White, the freckled, carrot-topped champion snowboarder who was dubbed “the flying red tomato,” early in his career, and who is best known for his double McTwist on the half-pipe.
His last two snowboarding video games sold so well, 4 million worldwide, that he was asked to make a new game in a genre dominated by skating legend Tony Hawk, whom White counts among his friends.
“We had the best selling snowboard game two years in a row so I had the opportunity to do a skateboard game,” White explained in an interview.
The result is “Shaun White Skateboarding” which publisher Ubisoft released on Oct 24 in North America. The PlayStation 3 version will be released on Oct 28 due to a manufacturing glitch.
White, 24, is savvy to want to take another bite out of the sports video game market, a popular genre in the $60.4 billion global video game industry. Sports brands like Madden NFL and FIFA can pull in major profits in an industry that dwarfs Hollywood’s box office take.
White’s video game is set in a gray world that only livens ups and transforms into a skate park as players pull off and land tricks. While the game’s urban landscape might lack snow, it’s hardly out of White’s element.
White, 24, splits his year competing in snowboarding and skateboarding. He was the first athlete to compete and win medals in both the winter and summer X Games, which are organized by U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN, in two sports.
When White returned this season to skateboarding after focusing on snowboarding for the Olympics, he was met with some doubters.
“When I came back to skating, everyone was like ‘Oh you’re the snowboard guy,’” he said.
With three wins in a row, including one three weeks ago at the Dew Tour Championships Las Vegas, White said he has quieted his critics.
Whether he was skateboarding in a motion capture suit at Ubisoft’s studio in Montreal, putting his own touch on the script or recording voiceovers in Los Angeles, White insisted on being hands on with the new game.
He has been burned before by game companies, he said. When he was 13, he appeared as a character in a snowboarding game called “Cool Boarders” and was not thrilled with how it turned out.
His success on the slopes is evident with the gold “Super Bowl style” rings he wears. The bigger one is from his gold medal win in Vancouver and a smaller gold one from Torino in 2006.
In November White will switch back to snowboarding and then in April he will hop back into professional skateboarding.
He wants to compete in the next winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014. But the best half-pipe snowboarder in the world said he has to qualify first.
For now, White’s next contest will be on video game shelves, going head to head with “Tony Hawk’s Shred,” an Activision Blizzard game that uses a skateboard controller.
White said his new video game will not disappoint.
“I didn’t want to make a game unless I felt in the position to make something new and different,” he explained. “I think fans can tell if you just slap a skateboarder on a game — you can’t fool kids.”
Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Patricia Reaney