Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Tis Video-Game Season ; Choices Abound with New Consoles and Games for Every Age Group

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Tis Video-Game Season ; Choices Abound with New Consoles and Games for Every Age Group

Article excerpt

The holiday season is already under way deep in the basement of the headquarters of video-game developer THQ, just west of Los Angeles. For firms such as THQ, the most important few weeks of the year lie just ahead, as big numbers of games fly off retailers' shelves.

Standing next to stereos, DVD players and VCRs in THQ's basement are large-screen TVs perched atop towers bulging with multiple game consoles.

This is the year that video gaming goes mainstream, says THQ president Brian Farrell. "People are finally saying, 'I'm going to get a game console and put it right next to the TV.' "

While retailers hope it's the season to be jolly, it's also the season of exploding choices. Next week, video-game stalwart Nintendo launches its newest console, GameCube ($199), and Microsoft enters the ring as a serious contender with X-Box ($299). Reigning heavyweight Playstation2 (Sony) ramps up for more accessories and games.

"Which way you go will depend on your personal preference," says Gwen Marker, communications manager for Sega, a former hardware and software company that this year shifted solely into developing software for all video-game platforms.

While GameCube will be a good choice for kids, with a lower price and youth-skewed games (doesn't come wired for online play), the new, pricier, and more powerful X-Box, with more mature titles, will appeal to teens and adults (and is wired for online play). Playstation2 has the most games, having been on the market for nearly a year.

Regardless of the platform, Ms. Marker anticipates a banner year for video games. "All indications are that, given the economy and other factors, people are opting more and more for home-based entertainment," she says.

Spiffy new hardware aside, gamers agree that it's the game that counts. To help navigate the storm of new titles, here is a quick guide:

* GameCube: Top new titles include "Luigi's Mansion," an action- adventure single-player game, and "Wave Race Blue Storm," a multiplayer watercraft ski game with hyper-realistic water effects and physics. In "Pikmin," a unique single-player fantasy created by video-game master Shigeru Miyamoto after he spent an afternoon contemplating his garden, small creatures navigate an oversized garden environment in search of a spaceship that crash landed on their planet. …

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