March 11, 2010 / 4:44 AM / 7 years ago

New racing videogames set to rev up sales

<p>Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton watches video from the new "Gran Turismo 5" game for the PS3, at the Sony E3 2009 media briefing in Los Angeles in this June 2, 2009 fo;e [jptp.Fred Prouser</p>

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - Blatant disregard for oncoming traffic and speed limits will get you into serious trouble on the road, but drivers seeking similar thrills can indulge in a fleet of new racing video games due out soon.

Sony Computer Entertainment's (Sony) "Gran Turismo 5" from Polyphony Digital, Activision Blizzard's "Blur" and Disney Interactive Studios' "Split/Second" are heading to stores from game-makers around the globe, boosting a genre that inevitably has players coming back for more.

John Taylor, videogame analyst, Arcadia Research, said that in 2004 racing games accounted for approximately 9 percent of U.S. videogame sales, a figure which has now more than doubled.

He said the racing genre still has strong franchises such as Nintendo's "Mario Kart Wii," Microsoft's "FORZA Motorsport" and Sony's "Gran Turismo," with this year's offerings set to add to a niche that, according to analyst Anita Frazier, netted sales worth $548 million in 2009.

"Today, more than 20 percent of U.S. gamers play action or sports racing games with the demographics skewing to younger males," said Michael Cai, vice president of research at media and technology research firm Interpret.

Liverpool-based game studio Bizarre Creations has made the jump to action racing with "Blur." The studio's last racing franchise, Microsoft's "Project Gotham Racing," has sold over 7 million copies on Xbox 360, including 2.9 million units in the United States, according to The NPD Group.

"After working on so many simulation racing titles we really wanted to bring the fun back to racing," said Ged Talbott, lead designer on Blur at Bizarre Creations.

"To do that, we've combined real-world vehicles with accurate physics and handling with arcade-style power-ups like mines and nitro boosts on accurately detailed tracks like the Los Angeles docks and downtown Tokyo."

Another British game developer, Black Rock Studios in Brighton, is delivering adrenaline-fueled arcade racing action with "Split/Second."

The developer is making the jump from its core off-road racing pedigree from bestselling titles such as Disney Interactive Studios' "Pure" to the crowded pavements of a futuristic reality television show that pits eight racers against each other in a battle for global TV ratings.

"As you drive through this city, the track environment changes, opening up shortcuts and unlocking ways to wreak havoc on your competition," explained Nick Baynes, game director at Black Rock Studio.

"There are explosions everywhere and things are falling apart as you try to survive through a full television season."

New Vancouver, British Columbia-based studio United Front Games is adding an interesting twist to the racing genre with Sony's "ModNation Racers."

The kart-racing game makes it easy for players to create and customize their drivers and vehicles, and even build entire racetracks in a matter of minutes. All of this user-generated content can then be shared with other PlayStation 3 users online.

"We don't look at this title as creating another kart racer game," explained Mike Olson, lead artist on "ModNation Racers" at United Front Games.

"This game is a tool that will allow players to create anything they want and share it with the community."

Sony has sold over 55 million copies of its "Gran Turismo" racing simulation franchise worldwide. Its newest title, "Gran Turismo 5," will be available for PlayStation 3 users this autumn and introduces NASCAR to its garage of racing vehicles.

The game is expected to feature over 1,000 cars, ranging from Japanese tuner cars to concept cars, as well as tracks from around the globe. The game will also feature stereoscopic 3D technology for the first time. Racing games keep fans coming back for sequels.

Electronic Arts has sold over 100 million copies of "Need for Speed" games over the last 16 years. The publisher is taking the racing genre into the massively multiplayer online (MMO) space this summer with "Need for Speed World."

What separates this new online game from the competition is that the content will always be updating with new licensed vehicles and tracks, keeping the experience fresh, something that should help gamers going on more than just a test drive.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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