Raleigh: Sony Computer Entertainment America’s “LittleBigPlanet” game, released in North America on Tuesday, lets players create characters and scenarios for the PlayStation 3, taking the Internet’s embrace of community-created sites to video games.
The new game has 50 levels of play in a universe of castles and mountains where customizable sackcloth puppets must navigate obstacles and puzzles to proceed.
What separates it from the pack is a suite of tools, which allows players to create their own game challenges and share them with others online via Sony Corp’s PlayStation Network.
Kareem Ettouney, art director for “LittleBigPlanet,” said recently in an interview in New York the whole idea behind the game is that one person can create everything from characters to worlds within the game.
“The three pillars of the game are equal: play, create, and share,” said Ettouney, who co-founded the game’s development studio, Media Molecule.
Electronic Arts Inc has proven that empowering gamers is a good business decision these days. Gamers have populated the new “Spore” universe with over 25 million creatures, vehicles and buildings of their own creation. “Spore” PC and Nintendo DS games sold over 1 million copies worldwide in the first three weeks.
Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst for IDC, believes “LittleBigPlanet” will help Sony drive sales of its PS3. The PS3 lags Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii in total sales, but new games made by Sony exclusively for its machine may help it gain ground.
It’s a mass market game that will appeal to non-gamers, new gamers and also to gaming enthusiasts,“ said Pidgeon. “Sony can use ‘LittleBigPlanet´ to build a larger online PlayStation Network audience, which will give the PlayStation Store more customers.”
The game will be sold both through traditional retail channels on a $60 Blu-ray disc and also will be available as a digital download through the PlayStation Store.
Sony has said it has big plans for this new game franchise with “LittleBigPlanet” spin-offs like comics, cartoons, and action figures in the works. Pidgeon believes the online-focused game could open up sponsorship opportunities for Sony, as well as new revenue streams.
“Global online downloadable game-related content is expected to grow from $493 million in 2007 to $7.2 billion in 2011,” said Pidgeon. “Game-related downloadable content revenue from online consoles has already surpassed online console subscription revenue.”
Players are going beyond the game itself. Scott Rohde, vice president of product development at Sony Computer Entertainment America, said that during the current private test of the game, gamers have created in-game blogs and photo slide shows.
According to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Chief Executive Officer David Reeves, who spoke to gaming website PS3 Fanboy, gamers may be able to sell their creations in the near future.
“What we’re trying to do with ‘LittleBigPlanet´ is almost iTunes meets eBay in the sense that once an individual or a developer has qualified by producing certain levels or certain add-ons, they will then be able in the future to exchange these and make money out of them,” Reeves told the site recently.
Sony, which trails both Nintendo and Microsoft in the current global console battle, has a lot riding on “LittleBigPlanet,” but the game has already received numerous awards at big trade shows like E3. The company says the game ships in North America on Tuesday, Japan on 30 October, and in the UK, Europe, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand the week of 3 November.