Horror videogames scare up record sales

RALEIGH, North Carolina Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:32pm EDT

Joel Baker from Anaheim, California attends Comic-Con International dressed as horror film character Freddy Krueger in San Diego, California July 26, 2007. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Joel Baker from Anaheim, California attends Comic-Con International dressed as horror film character Freddy Krueger in San Diego, California July 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - What do Jigsaw from "Saw," Freddy Krueger, and Jason from "Friday the 13th" all have in common, besides serial killing? Videogames, if the horror stars' latest round of promotions are to be believed.

Horror videogames are having a record year as zombies, monsters, demons, and chain-saw wielding psychos fight against the consoles, making videogames the new home of horror for some.

Michael Pachter, video-game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, said about $147 million worth of horror videogames have sold in the United States alone this year through September compared to $131 million in total for all of 2008.

Actor Kane Hodder, best known as the man behind Jason's mask in the "Friday the 13th" movies, believes scary games have an advantage over horror movies as disillusionment sets in with horror movie remakes and recycling old horror themes.

"Whenever horror movies do well, Hollywood always rushes more into theaters and people get a little burned out on them," said Hodder, who has worked in the videogame industry.

"But with games, there are fewer choices in the genre and they tend to be spaced out better."

With Halloween this week, movies like "Saw VI," "Paranormal State" and "Zombieland" are luring audiences seeking a scare to the movie theaters.

Haunted attractions have also risen across the United States, with these increasingly high-tech venues doing everything possible to make a scary scenario seem real, which includes hiring actors to jump out at people and using theatrical sets.

HORROR IN YOUR HANDS

But actor Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films, said videogames gave horror-seekers a different experience.

"Halloween gives fans the chance to dress up in costumes and celebrate horror, but videogames are the best way for fans to actually participate in these worlds," he told Reuters.

For those looking for virtual scares this Halloween, there are some new options. Konami Digital Entertainment and Zombie Studios just released "Saw" on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in tandem with the new movie that features killer Jigsaw putting his victims in deadly contraptions to torture them.

"The game, itself, is very "Saw"-like because you get to make a bunch of different choices," explained actor Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw in the new game and the six films in the series.

"Of course, the choices have consequences, which is very much like the films. What's interesting for fans is that the game is set between the first and second films, so it will be a new experience for them."

However the monster of the horror videogame genre remains Capcom's "Resident Evil 5," which was launched on Friday, March 13, this year.

Video-game tracking firm the NPD Group said Capcom has sold 1.94 million copies of "Resident Evil 5" to date.

"Resident Evil 5" is a survival horror videogame where players fight off zombie-like enemies.

"Individual games like Capcom's "Devil May Cry" and Atari's "Alone in the Dark" have been big, and there are a few new games that hit the genre like Electronic Arts' "Dead Space" and "Dante's Inferno" which will do pretty well, but to date, the "Resident Evil" brand is exactly half of all sales," said Pachter.

Fans can blow away new zombies in Capcom's Wii exclusive, "Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles," which goes on sale from November 17.

"Resident Evil: Afterlife," the fourth movie based on the horror game franchise from Sony Pictures, is currently filming in Toronto. The first 3D movie in the franchise will hit theaters next year. Konami has the latest installment in its best-selling "Silent Hill" franchise out in December. "Silent Hill: Shattered Memories" offers a new perspective on the original game set in the haunted town of Silent Hill and known for disturbing psychological horror.

Electronic Arts has a pair of horror offerings for gamers. The publisher recently shipped "Dead Space: Extraction" for Wii, which is a prequel to last fall's Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC hit. "Dead Space 2" is in development for next year.

This sci-fi horror franchise pits players against lethal aliens that come in all different monstrous shapes and sizes.

EA and Valve Software release "Left 4 Dead 2" on Xbox 360 and PC on November 17. The original game, which pits humans against zombies that have taken over the United States, sold over 1.92 million copies on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in the United States.

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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