'Non-traditional' games a hot topic

The focus at E3 in previous years was always on games with fast cars, sports stars and big guns.

But 2007 may mark the first year in which aerobics and puzzles stole the show.

In a clear sign that the videogame biz is looking to grow beyond hardcore gamers, the big companies spent much of their time this year on “non-traditional” games.

At Electronic Arts’ press conference, the No. 1 publisher didn’t even mention its biggest franchises like “Madden NFL” and “Need for Speed.” Instead, it focused entirely on games in its new division, called EA Casual Entertainment, designed to be easy for anyone to play. Those include a cartoonish dancing game called “Boogie” and a Jenga-like puzzle game designed in collaboration with Steven Spielberg.

“We have to go beyond the 180 million people who game now and reach the 2 billion people that we think could play,” says Kathy Vrabeck, prexy of the new EA division.

Even Microsoft, whose Xbox 360 has thus far appealed almost exclusively to hardcore gamers, interrupted its press conference dominated by high-octane shooters to debut its own version of “Scene It,” the movie trivia game, complete with a non-intimidating controller that has only four buttons.

Much of the industry’s shift is being driven by Nintendo, whose Wii and DS appeal to women and older adults more than previous game devices.

The Japanese vidgame giant struck a careful balance at its event between showing off the franchises E3 attendees love, like “Super Smash Brothers” and “Metroid,” and urging attendees to be more open to the wider world.

“I ask the veterans to remember their very first day as gamers,” said Nintendo prexy Satoru Iwata, a legendary figure among gamers. “New players are the most valuable prize in the videogame business.”

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