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Nintendo and Microsoft wake up to families

OPINION: Parents seeking family-friendly videogames will appreciate the tech giants' forray into the 'mom market' for videogames.

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After years of allowing children (let's be honest: allowing boys) to blow up spaceships, steal cars, and basically shoot anything that moves, the good folks at Microsoft who make the Xbox 360 video-game console have decided to go after a new market: moms.

That's right. Media reports last week said Microsoft plans to create a whole new set of games that will appeal to families. In addition, the company wants to make the family games that it already offers easier to find, placing them on prime retail space in place of war or sci-fi-type games. (Don't worry, boys, you'll still be able to get "Gears of War," Microsoft's best-selling game at the moment.) Microsoft may even cut the price on its game console before the holidays. Such a move is hard to even think about in June, but that's how marketing folks see the calendar.

Why the shift? Because nothing focuses the mind of a business executive like the success of a rival – in this case, Nintendo. But it's not just the wireless Wii that has vaulted Nintendo to the top of the gaming world. It's the decision that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata made about going after new markets.

Sooner or later, the supply of testosterone-driven males between the ages of 15 and 29 dries up. Nintendo decided to appeal to what are known as "casual gamers" – basically, everyone who is not a young male. Relying on the ease of use of the Wii as its hook, the company went after younger kids, women, and even seniors, creating games that cut down on destruction and emphasized fun.

Nintendo has been particularly successful with its sports-oriented games such as Tiger Woods Pro Golf. The wireless Wii remote has enabled family members – who might not have the thumb speed of younger family members – to hold their own. (The classic example was when late-night TV host Conan O'Brien defeated one of the Williams sisters playing Nintendo tennis with a Wii.)

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