Ubisoft getting videogame players off the couch

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The Independent Tech

Ubisoft is tapping into camera and motion-sensing technologies to pump out videogames that get players up and moving, sometimes even away from television screens.

The French videogame powerhouse rolled out an array of active titles at a "Games you can feel" press conference Monday on the eve of the opening of a major Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

"We've been working hard putting lots of energy into those games," Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot said as the firm showed off its line-up of titles slated for release by the year-end holiday shopping season.

Players wielding toy guns and wearing shoulder harnesses with sensors dodged, ducked and fired their ways through the audience in the Los Angeles Theater to demonstrate a "Battle Tag" title.

The vests signaled a videogame console each time a player was hit, keeping score to determine the winning team in a home version of laser tag.

"It's a real live shooter you could play at home with all your friends," said 'Battle Tag' producer Gael Seydoux. "It's a videogame you play away from the screen."

Players can share wins and other game information on social networking websites or other online venues.

Tag will ship in North America bundled with a pair of guns, two harnesses, and accessories used for "reloading" and as targets.

Players seeking tranquility instead of heart-pumping gun play will be able to opt for an "Innergy" game that uses a finger-sleeve pulse sensor and on-screen feedback to lead people through meditative exercises.

"It has to do with reducing stress," game concept director Tommy Francois said as he demonstrated the title. "You can practice every day to feel younger and even boost your immune system."

Ubisoft, which has embraced Nintendo's motion-sensing Wii controls from the console's launch in 2006, is enthusiastic about the new gesture-based controls for Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles.

Ubisoft will release a sports videogame featuring virtual skiing, soccer, and other athletic endeavors. A "Your Shape" videogame will let players use Kinect to immerse themselves in yoga, fitness, or martial arts sessions.

"The experience might be virtual but the sweat is real," said Michael George, a Los Angeles celebrity fitness trainer that took part in the on-stage demonstration.

Ubisoft is making a videogame that lets players "step into the shoes" of legendary "King of Pop" Michael Jackson.

The game, due for release in November when Kinect hits the market, will combine Jackson's music with his renowned dance moves, calling on players to learn and emulate the ways the King of Pop moved.

Players will also be able to sing along to Jackson songs including Billie Jean and Beat It, with vocal performances rated by the game.

Ubisoft didn't disappoint lovers of its blockbuster franchises, rolling out a new version of "Assassin's Creed" as well as shooter "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier" and the latest zany "Raving Rabbids" installment.

A "Driver San Francisco" title lets players roar about that city in virtual car chases in the spirit of the 1968 film "Bullitt."

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