EA Bets on ‘Simpsons’ Writers to Deliver Game Hit

Game maker Electronic Arts (EA) revealed details on its forthcoming title, “The Simpsons Game,” Wednesday during an event announcing the new video game as well as 12 other new titles. Set for release this fall, the game turns the tables on the characters of the well-known TV family: The whole Simpsons clan is perfectly aware that they inhabit a video game.

“Our goal in developing ‘The Simpsons Game’ is to create the most original game ever, which is a lofty goal and only possible given the close collaboration with ‘The Simpsons’ creative team,” said Scot Amos, executive producer of the project. “We’re also especially proud of the game’s warm visual feel, which captures — for the first time ever in a game — the look of the TV show. As Comic Book Guy says, ‘Best. Simpsons. Game. Ever!'”

Scheduled for release in Fall 2007, the game will be available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.

Beer, Donuts and Jazz

“The Simpsons Game,” a working title, features beloved characters from the long-running animated TV sitcom as the heroes and heroines of their own video game, which unfolds over four chapters broken down into 16 episodes. During the game, Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa will try to save the world from a rising tide of chaos, according to EA.

To do so, each family member has been given their own special powers. Bart, for instance, reportedly takes on the guise of “Bartman” to fight villains while maneuvering and gliding using his cape. He can also target the bad guys using his trusty slingshot. Homer’s legendary gluttony serves him in good stead, turning him into an enormous ball of fat, the “Homerball,” which demolishes his enemies.

Marge can control people by nagging them into doing what she wants. Lisa, after meditating at a Buddha statue, morphs into the deity’s hand and can squash her foes.

Though the Simpsons will hit movie theaters this summer with their first full-length motion picture, “The Simpsons Movie” and EA’s new “The Simpsons Game” are not connected.

22nd Time Is a Charm

The new game is the latest in a long line of Simpsons-themed games to hit the PC and console market. Most have arrived with a resounding thud, gaming guide author David Hodgson told TechNewsWorld. The challenge for EA, he said, is to overcome the awful games that have come before this.

“I think the challenge is to defy low expectations,” he explained. “This marks, if my calculations are correct, the 22nd Simpsons game to appear on a computer or video game system. Why haven’t you heard of most of them? Because many of them weren’t well received, with the exception of ‘Simpsons Hit and Run.'”

Hodgson believes that EA has four things going for it with this incarnation of a Simpsons video game: First, the show’s writers developed the game’s storyline themselves. Next, EA recently purchased the rights to the Simpsons franchise, and so “are well aware that this game must attract a wide audience and wipe away the failed Simpsons games of the past.

“[EA] is proficient at such a venture,” Hodgson noted.

Third, he pointed out, the game takes place with Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa realizing they’re trapped in a video game, which in turn leads to all kinds of amusing situations.

Finally, said Hodgson, the game has a strong satirical bent going for it.

“EA’s large back-catalog can be made fun of, mimicked, and the many other top franchises are also fair game,” he said. “This is excellent and important for this evolving industry, and also another great hook to get gamers to play the game. It also goes a long way to dispel the myths that [movie critic] Roger Ebert and others like to impart from time to time, that video games aren’t art.”

Extra Life or Game Over?

With the series having won the love of two decade’s worth of fans and the release of “The Simpson Movie” right around the corner, the bar has been set very high for “The Simpsons Game.” Adding to the pressure is EA’s announcement Tuesday that it had lost some US$25 million during the last quarter and that “The Sims” creator Will Wright’s highly anticipated game “Spore” would probably be delayed. Combined, these events have put the game software designer in a tough spot, Enderle Group Principal Analyst Rob Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

“EA hasn’t been doing too well of late,” he said. “They got hit pretty hard. They haven’t had any really great titles come out. And it’s been slow with the new gaming consoles, though you can’t really blame them. But most of their stuff has been looking tired and old.

“The hope here is that some of the excitement that surrounds ‘The Simpson Movie’ will spill over to the game. That doesn’t actually happen often, so it’s kind of a long shot.

“They can’t really afford a lot of additional failure,” he continued. “The bar is pretty high and so is the risk. While EA has a pretty good history of bringing out good titles, of late they just don’t seem to be hitting very often. It is kind of critical that they hit this one out of the park or at least get a base hit.”

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