October 13th, 2006, 17:05 Posted By: wraggster
Video game console makers Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are harnessing the power of online communities -- the secret sauce behind Web phenomena like eBay and MySpace -- in a bid to usher in a new era of game play.
Microsoft's Xbox Live online service has been credited with creating buzz and upping the appeal of its next-generation Xbox 360 console last year. The service has a loyal community of users who number in the millions and log in to compete, chat and collect gamer points that translate into all-important bragging rights.
Not surprisingly, both Sony and Nintendo are hoping to put their own stamps on the community building process with their next-generation consoles, the Playstation 3 and the Wii.
While the designers behind the Playstation 3 are expected to follow a model similar to Xbox Live with a robust online component offering games, music and movies, Nintendo is taking a different approach with its console, which hits stores on November 19.
Known for its contrarian approach, iconic characters like the Mario Brothers and ultra-cute games such as "Nintendogs," Nintendo's Wii will include the tools users need to mint a "Mii," a customized, cartoony version of themselves.
The company's Mii Channel character creation software lets users choose from dozens of features, including eyes, hair, lips and eyebrows to create a virtual character, also referred to as an "avatar" in video game parlance.
MOMMY AND MII
Video game chat boards are already attracting crowds of Miis as "Mii generators" such as http://www.blogsmithmedia.com/www.jo...006/10/mii.swf have popped up on the Web.
These sites are giving users the chance to practice their Mii creation skills, and generating lots of excitement about the Wii launch.
When Wii owners first turn on their new consoles, they will find their characters in "Mii Plaza," a virtual waiting room where the Miis wander around, bumping into one another.
They can then use the Wii remote, or "Wiimote," to drop Miis into a game or email.
Up to 100 Mii characters can exist in the Mii Channel at a time. In addition, up to 10 of them can be saved on Wiimote and carried to a friend's house.
Miis dropped into a game, such as the "Wii Sports" title shipping with the Wii at launch, will replace generic characters in games, whether they are the star of the show or part of a crowd.
Messages from parents to children can be delivered by the adult's Mii-doppelganger.
Nintendo expects the Mii Channel to bridge the generation gap between gamers of all ages.
"A younger player can create a caricature of their parents, and it might entice them to play (a game)," said George Harrison, Nintendo's senior vice president of marketing.
Harrison says that right now, he only knows two games that will be Mii compatible; the aforementioned "Wii Sports" and "WarioWare," which is due in January.
He expects third-party video game publishers to make Mii creation tools available and expects more Mii-compatible titles by the middle of next year.
"It's true potential isn't even known yet," Harrison said.
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