Spielberg makes videogames to keep his family happy
Thursday 14 May 2009
Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg was so frustrated that no videogames catered for all of his seven children that he did what a entertainment maestro might do- made his own game.
"Boom Blox" was the first in a multi-franchise deal between Spielberg and videogame publisher Electronic Arts and has sold close to one million copies globally since it was released for Nintendo's Wii last May.
On May 19, EA releases Spielberg's second game, "Boom Blox Bash Party."
Spielberg, who said he plays just about every game that comes out, is a big fan of Nintendo's Wii console and its motion-sensor controls that involved physical interactivity.
"It's been very, very good for a parent like me who wants our kids not to be couch potatoes, but to get up and move their bodies around more," said Spielberg, who worked closely with the team at EA's Los Angeles studio on both the games.
Spielberg said "Boom Blox" originated from the idea of using the Wii controller to knock something down, like the traditional family toy of building blocks.
In the newest game up to four players face a range of challenges of up to 400 levels in locations as diverse as outer space and deep under the sea where they can create their own user-generated content and share this with others online.
"You can become a creator at home," said Spielberg. "You can become a participant and you can become an activist. It's a really wonderful way to empower players to share their ideas with the world and give us better ideas for our own future of the next iteration beyond "Bash Party.""
With Spielberg's creative support, EA is set to continue with this family-friendly game franchise even though the original "Boom Blox" received some backlash from the gaming press when it launched, especially when initial sales for the title were slow.
There's been some criticism of "Boom Blox's" relatively weak sales performance compared to triple-A enthusiast titles like "Gears of War 2" and "Grand Theft Auto IV," but that is an apples to oranges comparison," said Billy Pidgeon, market research analyst at Game Changer Research.
"Many games for the Wii have broad mass market potential and have a slower and longer sales curve than do enthusiast titles."
As for Spielberg, he says he's learning more with every new game. The filmmaker actually once owned his own game studio.
"The smartest and dumbest thing I ever did was to sell my company to EA," said Spielberg. "Medal of Honor" was almost done and we made the decision to sell Dreamworks Interactive to Electronic Arts and had we not sold, we would have been able to stay in business just based on the success of "Medal of Honor."
"But it was very smart also for us to sell to a company that was better equipped and better managed to be able to take "Medal of Honor" into the international market and really make a commercial success out of it. "
Spielberg said there aren't many similarities between creating in Hollywood and in the games space.
"The technology involved at every level to create a videogame is only similar to the technology involved that created the dinosaurs in "Jurassic Park,"" he said.
"There is no production, like I'm very accustomed to. There's no hiring of actors or building sets...the minutia of technology takes over."
He said perhaps that is one reason why videogames have not translated to the big screen, although Hollywood continues to try with new films like Disney Pictures' "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
"So far, there hasn't been a major success in the videogame industry based on a motion picture, nor has there been a very successful motion picture based on a videogame," said Spielberg.
"There's not been convergence, thus far. There will be. When it happens it will be dynamite."
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