EA's 'Spore' Set For Earthwide Launch - InformationWeek

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EA's 'Spore' Set For Earthwide Launch

The game is expected to open up a new revenue stream built on millions of micro-transactions from players buying virtual clothes and accessories for their creatures.

Electronic Arts is set to release this weekend the highly anticipated "Spore," a video game that at least one analyst believes will have a "huge impact on the industry."

Created by Will Wright, the designer of the "Sims" series of games, "Spore" takes the concept of evolution into a new level of imagination. Players create their own characters that start out as underwater spores and gradually evolve into land creatures. As those creatures meet others, tribes are formed and later whole civilizations. Eventually, the characters blast off into space to build civilizations on other planets.

Along the way, characters interact with other player's imaginations in other worlds and civilizations, Players can choose to make friends or take a hostile stand against strangers. While the game can be played off a DVD, the full experience requires players to be online in order to interact with each other.

"Spore" has shipped in Australia and in countries in Europe and South America. It's scheduled for release in the United States Sept. 7. Players have been able to download EA's "Spore Creature Creator" tool since June for $10. "In a few weeks, or about a month, there were more creatures created than there are species on Earth," Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst for market researcher IDC, told InformationWeek

Indeed, Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, told Reuters news agency that he expects EA to ship 3 million copies of "Spore" at $120 million wholesale, with consumers snatching up 2 million copies this year. This should place EA well on its way of establishing a solid franchise.

The game is exceptional because it's easy enough for the casual player to have fun without getting too involved with the game's intricacies. At the same time, there's plenty for hardcore gamers to delve into for long-term entertainment.

"It's a brilliant game, and it's going to have a huge influence on the industry," Pidgeon said. "It could be a game-changing type of application."

The impact will likely stem from raising the expectations of video game players, Pidgeon said. Once "Spore" sets the bar, it will be up to other game makers to innovate above that standard. "It's not going to be a flash in the pan where people have fun with it now and tire with it later," Pidgeon said of "Spore."

For EA, "Spore" is expected to open up a new revenue stream built on millions of micro-transactions from players buying virtual clothes and accessories for their creatures. Those types of small purchases are the fastest growing revenue generators in online gaming, analysts say. In addition, players can buy "Spore" T-shirts, hats and posters. EA is even looking to license the television and movie rights to create a "Spore" entertainment franchise.

The game itself, which is available for the PC and Mac, will cost $50, with a "Spore Galactic Edition" selling for $80. EA is also offering a mobile version called "Spore Origins" for AT&T mobile phones and the Apple iPod and iPhone. For $30, there's also a version for Nintendo's DS portable game player. Versions for video game consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, are expected in the future.

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