Nov 28, 2008

Tech - Videogames ready for holiday season

John Gaudiosi

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters Life!) - With the holiday travel season fast approaching, videogame makers are making sure they have games and consoles handy for trains, planes and automobiles -- and so are holiday desinations.

Nintendo (7974.OS: Quote, Profile, Research) is introducing two limited edition Nintendo DS bundles on Nov. 28 which include a Mario Red Nintendo DS with the "New Super Mario Bros." game and an Ice Blue Nintendo DS with a matching carrying case and a copy of "Brain Age."

In Japan, Nintendo recently introduced its next generation portable, Nintendo DSi, which adds two cameras, an SD card slot, an online game store, advanced music capabilities, larger screens and a slimmer body to the dual-screen handheld player.

The Nintendo DSi will be released in North America and Europe in 2009, about five years since it debuted the Nintendo DS in North America of which it has shipped over 84 million units.

Sony Corp. (6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research) has a new portable game offering, the PSP 3000, which adds a high-resolution screen and a built-in microphone to let users call friends between games or movies.

Since debuting the original PlayStation Portable in December 2004 in Japan, Sony has sold over 40 million PSPs worldwide.

Apple's (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) iPhone 3G and iPod Touch have also become popular gaming devices for vacationers. There are over 13 million iPhone 3Gs around the globe and over 1,500 games available on the App Store.


But videogames are not just becoming an integral packing item for vacationers on the move. Their end destinations as well have noticed the wider demand for gaming, way beyond just families.

Nintendo's Wii consoles, with its unique motion-sensing controller and simpler games, can now be found in select Marriott and Westin Hotels and on board many cruise liners with games like "Wii Sports" and "Endless Ocean" part of daily itineraries.

"We always have had PlayStations aboard our ships but we've upgraded recently to Wiis and integrated them throughout our ships for kids, teenagers and adults to play," said Jim Urry, vice president of entertainment for Disney Cruise Line (DIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

Urry said next year, Disney will introduce a new videogame experience to passengers using motion-sensor technology designed by Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI).

A "Pirates of the Caribbean" game, which can be played by large groups on the ship's deck, lets players steer a course for Captain Jack Sparrow's ship by leaning in different directions.

The virtual characters and ship will be displayed on a giant outdoor screen used by the cruise line for some Wii tournaments.

Videogames are also influencing the work of WDI at Walt Disney World and Disneyland with both parks introducing a new ride this year, "Toy Story's Midway Mania," which plays like a next generation videogame with 3D glasses and special effects like air and water.

"We know kids come into our parks with Nintendo DSes and they're with them all day," said Sue Bryan, senior show producer and director, WDI, who oversaw development of the new ride.

"If we can involve them more in the theme park storytelling with that game technology, that's a great thing."

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