Nintendo, Microsoft Target Broader Audience

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Video games have always been a male province: Raven-haired buxom warrior babes, gun-toting soldiers, armored
Into the weird 3-D world of 'Munch's Oddysee.'
assault vehicles and brooding dragon-slaying knights have been, well, the name of the game.

Industry marketers say they are trying to reach out to casual gamers of all ages with a richer variety of games across genres -- action, adventure, role-playing, simulation, fantasy and more. They say broadband online gaming also will expand the market.

But you wouldn't know it strolling through the raucous booths at the Electronic Entertainment Expo last week. The testosterone-fueled convention, known as E3, drew more than 60,000 people, most of them young male gamers hunkered down at demo stations sampling all the latest games. Titles like "Halo," a sci-fi combat game, and "Dead or Alive 3," both exclusive to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox game console, which launches Nov. 8, seem throwbacks to traditional shooting games, though with sharper 3-D graphics and effects.

Beyond adrenaline
But there were some titles that seemed to want to reach out past the adrenalin-induced fighting, shooting and swordplay titles.

Nintendo appears to have games with the widest audience

A starring creature from Lego's 'Bionicle' for Nintendo.
appeal, including "Luigi's Mansion" and the forthcoming "Pikmin" for its new Game Cube console. "Pikmin" is a captivating, richly detailed game involving little sprout-like creatures that adopt a space traveler from an alien world. It was created by acclaimed Japanese game designer Shigeru Miyamato, who was inspired by his garden and the hills surrounding his home.

Microsoft's "Munch's Oddysee," a 3-D adventure game about Munch and Abe, two lab rats with psychic powers, could have wide appeal, though it will only be available on the Xbox. The Xbox's sharp graphics bring the action to life with rich detail, which are sure to appeal to anyone who enjoys cinema-quality visuals and crisp audio.

Lego Software's "Bionicle," a new epic action adventure game for Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, featuring dinosaur-like creatures, is another title that shows promise in engaging non-traditional gamers. With Lego Toys, the title will receive promotional support via McDonald's in August. A Lego toy "Bionicle" creature will be given away with Happy Meal purchases.

Hollywood influence
But for all the talk of luring gamers who fall outside the traditional target audience, the content isn't there yet.

Video-game marketers and publishers, driven by the hit-making Hollywood culture (witness the leap of Lara Croft from game console to big-screen in this summer's action flick Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie), have a long way to go to prove their commitment to engaging, fun and irreverant content that broadens gaming beyond a young male audience.

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