'Sims' creator eyes the world beyond games

Exploring traditional Hollywood outlets of film, television

NEW ORLEANS -- Will Wright, the creator behind top-selling videogame "The Sims," is eyeing life outside the virtual world.

Since leaving Electronic Arts in April to run entertainment think tank "Stupid Fun Club," Wright said he views himself as an "entertainment designer" rather than game maker and wants to create worlds crossing every spectrum of media.

Following on from his bestsellers like "The Sims 3" and "Spore," Wright is working on new franchises that can go beyond games to the Web, mobile devices, and traditional Hollywood outlets like television and film.

Wright, 49, said he was fascinating by watching gamers using the editing tools provided with "Spore" to make over 100 million user-generated alien species, space ships and even design games.

"We're taking the idea that you can have a million people engaged not just in entertainment, but also have them creating huge amounts of content for other people to experience," said Wright.

"The question is how can you transfer that to other fields besides games," he added, while refusing to divulge the details of the project he is working on.

In an industry that has more failures than successes, Wright has distinguished himself in the game world by attracting mainstream audiences to his creations.

"The Sims" franchise has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and it's relationship-focused, non-violent gameplay has attracted an unprecedented female gaming audience -- half of "Sims" players are female.

EA has already sold over 817,000 copies of "The Sims 3" in the United States since June, according to The NPD Group.

"Spore" has sold over 1.7 million copies in the United States alone since last year, according to The NPD Group.

""The Sims" was always an experiment," said Wright. "We never thought it'd be a mainstream thing. We simply did a game and started adding expansion packs and did a sequel and added more expansion packs."

Wright said good examples of "cross-media" companies were George Lucas' empire, which runs the gamut from special effects house Industrial Light & Magic to LucasArts and LucasFilm, and the Walt Disney Company.

Speaking at SIGGRAPH this week, the annual gathering of computer graphics professionals, Wright pointed to J.J. Abrams' "Lost" television show, which has used the Internet, as well as games, to build a story expanding beyond the serialized content.

Wright, in his first public appearance since parting ways with Electronic Arts in April, said the fusion of technology will enable future entertainment to be more than interactive.

"Games and stories are generative with one leading to the other," said Wright, who added that games allow people to build models in a virtual world to apply back to the real world.

"People can learn lessons about the past, present and future in an entertaining way."
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