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Tony Hawk Shreds Shaun White in Video Game Market

Tony Hawk
Getty
Tony Hawk

The veteran extreme sports star's 'Shred' has sold over twice as many units as newcomer White's 'Skateboarding' in the U.S. and worldwide.

NEW YORK CITY -- Two of the biggest names in extreme sports finally went head-to-head, but they didn't compete in the X-Games on ESPN or on the Olympic stage on NBC. Instead, Shaun White took on veteran Tony Hawk in the video game space. In a battle between two generations of skateboarders, Hawk ruled the roost and kicked newcomer White to the curb. Activision's Tony Hawk Shred sold over 135,000 copies in the U.S. alone in 2010, compared to under 60,000 copies of Ubisoft's Shaun White Skateboarding, according to video game tracking firm The NPD Group.

Both White and Hawk have been active in Hollywood, both in televised extreme sporting events and on the big screen. White will appear as himself in the summer 2011 film, Friends with Benefits alongside Emma Stone and Justin Timberlake, while Hawk will appear as himself in the 2011 true skateboarding movie Dream Seller with Bam Margera.

In the video game space, where the two have been extremely active, the veteran Hawk sold an estimated 270,000 copies of Tony Hawk Shred worldwide. Ubisoft's Shaun White Skateboarding sold an estimated 120,000 copies globally.

While the multi-sport White has released three snowboarding games with the game publisher over the past few years, this marks his first foray into skateboarding. White's game is the first extreme sports game available in stereoscopic 3D on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

"Whether you're watching a 3D movie or playing a 3D game, this technology is exciting because it makes you actually feel like you're the only one there being a part of the action and it sucks you into the experience," said White.

Shaun White Skateboarding takes a very different approach to the sport, introducing gamers to a fictional world where government has oppressed creativity and imprisoned White. Using a skateboard, gamers navigate each level by performing tricks and moves that literally unleash color and unlock new areas to grind and ollie.

According to Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Morgan Securities, the Olympic gold medalist has helped Ubisoft sell over 3.5 million snowboarding games in the U.S. alone since he entered the games space in 2008.

Hawk introduced skateboarding to the mainstream and dominated the pro skateboarding landscape for decades. He was able to parlay his early success in skate parks and competitions into a partnership with Activision on the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games. Hawk's video games have generated over $1 billion in revenue for Activision.

"I think that our games have always been innovative and the control schemes are very intuitive," said Hawk, whose eleventh game is called Tony Hawk Shred. "I think that my games are synonymous with skateboarding because they were the first ones to create the genre."

In 2009, Hawk and game developers Robomodo and Buzz Monkey introduced a brand new take on skateboarding with Tony Hawk Ride. The game's skateboard-shaped controller allows players to physically perform tricks in the real world that are replicated in the game.

Pachter said Ride has sold over 1.3 million copies in the U.S. since the fall of 2009. The new game, Shred, builds on this board technology by introducing both skateboarding and snowboarding experiences in one game.

"I've been snowboarding since before Shaun was born," said Hawk. "We're moving into a more interactive mode of playing with the actual board peripheral. Players standing on the board become more immersed in the game."

Hawk connected with a more casual mainstream family audience with Shred, which is targeting kids 6 to 12 years of age. The game offers arcade-style gameplay set in locales like New Orleans, the French Alps and Morocco. 

Pachter said Hawk and White are competing for a video game market that will support sales of about 3 to 4 million units per year. Electronic Arts released the simulation-based Skate 3 in May 2010, which features the voice of actor and former pro skater Jason Lee.

Looking to the future, Hawk is excited about new technology like PlayStation Move and Kinect for Xbox 360.

"Five years ago losing the controller and doing a skateboarding game virtually was still science fiction, but now the technology is finally here with Kinect," said Hawk. "I think these new types of user interaction -- the wireless controls, motion-sensing technology, facial and voice recognition – are only going to enhance the gameplay experience as we move forward."

As for White, who also happens to be an avid surfer, he's open to adding some virtual waves to a future video game in some capacity. He's also still good friends with Hawk, who has served as his mentor throughout the competition.

"It's definitely one of those things where Tony and I are friends, so that doesn't change in the slightest, but it's a hard category to jump into," said White.