LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If “American Idol” and a modern fairy tale combined to create a video game, you’d get “Boogie SuperStar” — Electronic Art’s latest game for the Nintendo Wii system.
But instead of finding Prince Charming, the goal of the game is to beat rival players’ singing and dancing skills to earn the grand title of Boogie SuperStar. Players are “discovered” and whisked away in a stretch limo to an island where they hone their skills for the competition.
Electronic Arts created the game specifically for female teens and pre-teens, or tweens, a demographic often overlooked by video game publishers.
In the United States, 38 percent of all gamers are female, according to the Entertainment Software Association.
“We knew this was an amazing audience to go after and to take what (tween girls) love — fashion, music, dancing — and create a video game for these girls to show their self-expression,” said John Buchanan, marketing director for EA’s Casual Entertainment division.
Girls — and boys too — can choose their own character and customize its name, hairstyle and outfit for their performance. They then pick music from a playlist of Top 40 pop songs, including hits from Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and Kanye West.
Unlike other popular music games such as “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero,” players of the new game dictate how their character — or avatar — moves on screen.
The game includes a microphone that measures players’ vocal fluctuations. The motion-sensing Wii controller records their dance moves.
EA says the game promotes “self-expression, creativity, and empowerment for girls worldwide,” but some female gamers say “Boogie SuperStar” is yet another girl-targeted video game based on unflattering stereotypes.
“I don’t think anything using pop-stars with ‘issues’ that revolve around scandals can create any kind of positive self-empowerment,” said Didi Cardoso, managing editor of Grrlgamer.com, a video game review web site produced by women.
Cardoso said many girl-targeted video games on the market center around themes such as cooking, pets, makeup, fashion or babies. Sandlot Games’ “Cake Mania” game, for example, challenges players to help the main character bake as many cakes as she can to save her grandparents’ bakery from closure.
French video game publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA developed its “Imagine” line just for tween girls. Yet some of the line’s titles perpetuate the well-worn themes, such as “Fashion Designer,” “Animal Doctor,” and “Babyz,” a game where girls face babysitting obstacles.
Another upcoming girl-targeted game for the Wii, Sega’s “Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek,” will also be released in October 2008 with “Boogie SuperStar.”
Analysts and critics in the gaming industry say both “Boogie SuperStar” and “Nancy Drew” Wii games are a positive step for video game publishers and will help double their consumer base.
“If you can provide a form of entertainment for members of the whole house, you’re well positioned,” said Michael Hickey, a video game analyst at Janco Partners.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Patricia Reaney