Friday, 10 June 2011

Sony bets on Spanish videogames studios for new console

Gonzalo Guirao of Tonika Games
SPAIN Sony's PSP handheld console has been around a while in Spain. But despite sales being the highest in Europe, there were no home-made games for the device - all were imported. The Spanish subsidiary of the Japanese firm suggested not just encouraging local creativity, but also demonstrating that different kinds of games can be made here. The success of the first launch, PlayChapas, still surprises Roberto López-Yeste, head of marketing development for Sony in Spain. This simulation of a playground game sold over 160,000 copies in 2008, paving the way to take on Europe with PlayEnglish, a game that combines English learning with a plot, and Patito Feo, the game based on the Argentine TV series that has sold more than 120,000 copies in Spain, Portugal and Italy. The second batch of titles is set to be even more impressive.>Tonika Games, the studio run by Gonzalo Guirao Sagi-Vela earned enough credit with PlayEnglish and Patito Feo to be one of the first firms allowed to experiment with Sony's new portable console, the just-unveiled PlayStation Vita. The Mystery Team has a plot similar to that of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books, uniting intrigue and puzzles.
Guirao Sagi-Vela thinks that as well as the esthetic, it's the script that marks a videogame out. "If we can add a touch of humor," he says, "so much the better, but what is really interesting is that now girls and boys play accompanied by their parents, it's a social experience."

Virtual Toys, headed by Jesús Iglesias and Fabriciano Bayo, has been involved in videogames since 1995 and has wide experience making titles to download from Sony's PlayStation Network. Now it has taken on two major challenges. The first is bringing the universe of the Geronimo Stilton children's books to the PlayStation Vita. The second is the game conversion of the new Pixar animation, Cars 2, which fills them with as much excitement as it does a sense of responsibility. "It wasn't easy passing the quality control of Pixar or of Disney; we follow a strict style guide," says Bayo.

The game breaks the mold a little. "It looks like a typical racing game, but it's closer to the adventure or platform genre. You play it with a car, sure, but it is the star, who runs, jumps and has a personality," says Iglesias.

The company has a fairly atypical conception of the industry's future. It believes the best way to avoid piracy is to give games away and charge for improvements and add-ons. And it's not just saying it. The firm already has a free virtual adventure, Torrente online, in which players who want to put a garish shirt on Spanish cinema's sleaziest cop have to part with a few coins.

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