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A Level Closer To the Mainstream

Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime says the company is convinced it did the right thing by courting mainstream buyers with a relatively low price when it introduced the popular Wii.
Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime says the company is convinced it did the right thing by courting mainstream buyers with a relatively low price when it introduced the popular Wii. (By Susan Goldman)

The closest he comes to taking a jab at a competitor, in conversation, is when Sony's PlayStation Portable, the PSP Go, comes up. The device eschews physical media -- there are no game discs or cartridges, in other words -- and opts instead for a download store.

The executive offered that he thinks the device may have a "fundamental concept problem in terms of 'Who's it for?' and 'What's the benefit?' "

"I have the utmost respect for all our competitors," he said, "but it's interesting to try and answer the consumer question of 'What's in it for me?' in that product."

Some of the company's competition going forward might come from a relatively new direction. Apple has started to position the iPod Touch as a game machine, and with the App Store's thousands of games priced at a buck or two, compared with $30 or $40 games for the DS.

With big-time game companies such as Electronic Arts putting out some of their biggest franchises on the App Store for less than $10, Pachter said, consumers may very well come to expect those lower prices.

Fils-Aime, again, seems unfazed. The DS, with its dual screens, offers an experience that cannot be replicated on a smartphone, he said. And have you tried Scribblenauts? It's a cool new game that has received acclaim from all corners. The title's unique feature, which has players writing words on the screen that the game brings to life, couldn't be done in an iPod.

"That's a fabulous experience that can only be brought to life on the DS," he said. Same for other DS hits such as Mario Kart DS, Nintendogs and New Super Mario Bros. "All of these experiences are very unique and very different and what you cannot find on their App Store."

Nintendo fans sometimes hope that the company will take its expertise with mobile devices and turn the next handheld game gadget into a phone.

But don't look for a Mario-branded phone anytime soon. "We don't have a desire to get into the phone space," Fils-Aime said. "We think the game business is competitive enough."

That Sounds Like . . .

Lawrence Reppert says he gets the occasional puzzled look from friends and colleagues these days when they hear the news. Reppert's singing voice is featured in a much-watched trailer for an upcoming video game called Assassin's Creed 2. Funny thing is, the classically trained tenor was just as surprised to find that out as everyone else he knows.

Here's the story: A few years ago, Reppert, who now works as the director of administration at the Cathedral Choral Society at Washington National Cathedral, did some vocal work for a piece of software designed for composers. With the software, composers can create musical works, complete with voices, without ever having to work with pesky human beings. Reppert received a one-time payment for his work.

Reppert doesn't know how many composers have used the software, which was published by a company called Bela D Media. But recently, the singer learned that the software -- and his voice -- had been used to create the soundtrack for a commercial for one of this year's hotly anticipated video games. The adventure game, set mostly in 15th-century Venice, is scheduled for a release in November.

The game's trailer, which depicts an assassination and a high-adrenaline escape on the streets of that city during a masquerade carnival, has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube.

"It was a little crazy, at first, to hear my voice in a video game trailer," Reppert said. The sheer number of folks who have heard him now is a little daunting, too. "That's more people than have ever heard my voice."

Reppert doesn't know whether his voice will be used in the final version of the game, but he says he's so curious to find that out, he might end up buying a game console just to find out. In any case, the game looks like it might be pretty good, he said.

He's leaning toward getting the PlayStation 3, mostly because of its capacity to play high-definition movies. "That Blu-ray option really seals the deal," he said.

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