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Disney rolls out toys for bigger boys

New vidgames target male demo

Disney Interactive Studios presented a decidedly different image at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles. Gone are princesses and fairy tales as the Mouse attempts to recapture a demographic of gamers often taken for granted: boys.

Film tie-in titles have always been big for the developer, but this year two of Disney’s biggest male-centric action properties are making their way to consoles.

“I think we’ve done a good job getting our target market demographic of tween girls (in the past). And this year we really have some games that are more for that core demographic of videogame players,” says Disney Interactive senior producer Daniel Tyrrell.

The first, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned,” expands the film franchise into an open world to explore. Players become pirates whose every decision puts them on a path to either greatness or infamy. Game is slated for release next year, when the next installment of the “Pirates” franchise sails into theaters.

The exhibit for the game was housed in a rickety cabin that looked straight out of the blockbusters.

And the men who were drawn to the booth by that display were rewarded with another much anticipated film tie-in: “Tron: Evolution,” tied to the December release of “Tron: Legacy.” Game will be available in stereoscopic 3D through Sony’s Playstation 3.

However, the biggest attraction at this year’s Disney booth was “Epic Mickey,” slated exclusively for the Wii this holiday season.

And far from being a cute girl-skewing mouse adventure, the game has an inky, gritty look and features steampunk-inspired iterations of famous Disney properties, from Mickey’s “Steamboat Willie” to Disneyland’s “Tiki Room.”

In the game, the iconic Mickey Mouse is armed with a magic paintbrush that changes his surroundings, and can turn foes into friends or erase them altogether with paint thinner. It’s a rare combination of family-friendly gameplay and an overall dark tone.

Warren Spector, the man behind the “Deus Ex” franchise, developed “Epic.”

“I think we have a really strong lineup with ‘Mickey,’ ‘Tron’ and ‘Armada of the Damned,’ but we also have a lot of games that are targeted more towards boys in the younger market like ‘Cars Toon: Mater’s Tall Tales,’ ” adds Tyrrell.

But in a sophisticated turn for a brand more associated with the innocent elementary school set, both “Armada of the Damned” and “Epic Mickey” are mixed morality pieces. The decisions players make throughout the course of the games, whether to help or hurt those they encounter, will have an impact on the world they play in and the outcome of the story.

And while this is not a new idea, it’s certainly intriguing to imagine a world where Mickey Mouse can intentionally do wrong.

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