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Xbox 360 to shed "hardcore" gaming image: MGS head

Xbox 360 owners can expect more family friendly titles and peripheral-based games.

Microsoft Game Studio's Shane Kim.

Xbox 360 owners can expect more family friendly titles and peripheral-based games as Microsoft aims to take its console into new gaming markets, Microsoft Game Studios (MGS) general manager Shane Kim says.

Kim says Microsoft wants to expand the 360's audience beyond hardcore gamers and into the mainstream. Microsoft's main competitors in the console gaming space, Nintendo and Sony, have already found success in attracting non-traditional gamers with titles such as Nintendogs for the DS and the Singstar and Buzz series for PlayStation 2.

"The positioning of the platform is very different now. We were so paranoid that people knew the Xbox was a hardcore gaming machine in the first generation that we really alienated, or closed off, a lot of our opportunity. If you've seen the brand ads now for 360 it's completely different -- it's much more approachable," Kim said.

While he's happy for the Xbox to lose some of its hardcore image, Kim says Microsoft is confident the moves into a broader audience won't alienate its traditional audience.

"I don't think we want to lose the relationship with hardcore gaming -- I don't think that will happen. I think we can do this without losing the hardcore gamer," he said.

Kim cited Viva Pinata as a prime example of the type of game which will lead the Xbox 360 into the future. Viva Pinata, which is being produced by MGS and is set for release later this year, is a part Pokemon, part Harvest Moon-type game where players tend a virtual garden with the aim of attracting and retaining colourful Pinata creatures. MGS is the first party publisher for both Xbox and Windows PC games. The publisher, in collaboration with other internal studio partners, has been responsible for such hits as Halo 2, Fable, Forza Motorsport, Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero and more.

"I think in some respects Viva Pinata is the most important title in our portfolio this year. In order to win in this generation (of consoles), we know that we have to expand beyond the core gaming audience. We did a great job with the core gaming audience with Xbox version 1, and I think we're off to a great start with 360. But if we are to win in this generation, we have to reach a much broader audience," Kim said.

"The significance of a title like Viva Pinata is not just because we think it can be a huge title in and off itself, but it demonstrates to retailers, to third parties, to customers and to journalists that we are very serious in developing this segment of the market."

''I think we can do this without losing the hardcore gamer.''

Shane Kim, MGS

Kim also flagged moves into the peripheral-based gaming space made popular by such games as PlayStation's EyeToy, Singstar and Buzz series, and more recently titles like Guitar Hero.

"There's a lot of focus on that (peripherals). That clearly was an area we didn't do very much with in the first generation of Xbox -- but that's changing. Certainly we see the success of what Sony had with EyeToy and a bunch of others, particularly in markets outside of the US," he said.

"We have to be careful about taking too much of a US-centric view of content. Buzz, Singstar, and those other games aren't really big in the US. But in Europe, which is a very important market for us in this generation, those kinds of titles and peripherals that go along with them, are very important. We have a lot of activity going on in that area -- I'll put it that way."

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