EA game means there's no stopping 'Simpsons'

Title lands between film, DVD

Electronic Arts is looking to keep the momentum from "The Simpsons Movie" all the way through the holidays by launching "The Simpsons Game" this week backed by a major TV ad campaign.

The game was developed with the help of the writers and voice actors from the hit Fox series and summer blockbuster movie but features all new content aimed at the gaming audience.

This week's launch date leaves the game ideally positioned between all the merchandising that accompanied the movie and the DVD release of "The Simpsons Movie," set for Dec. 18.

Retailers agreed with the timing, noting that the title has a chance to emerge as a major holiday hit, in part because of the gameplay but also because of EA's aggressive marketing campaign that includes television, online and viral ads.

"We knew this would be the year of 'The Simpsons,' " said Rich Briggs, senior product manager at EA.

EA would not speculate about what kind of sales numbers the game might do. But given the strength of the license and the fact it's being released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and 3, PSP and Nintendo Wii and DS, industry insiders suggested that it should easily surpass 500,000 unit sales and could go much higher. Those aren't "Halo 3" numbers but would be impressive given the sheer number of games that will be competing for consumer dollars this holiday season.

"The Simpsons" has been a licensing powerhouse for Fox and Gracie Films since the series launched in 1989 but hasn't always been treated well by the gaming industry. But even previous titles like "The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants" tended to be solid sellers, even if they weren't critically acclaimed.

In bringing out the new game, Briggs said EA is looking to let the public know that this will be the definitive "Simpsons" title. "That's one of the reasons we're calling it simply 'The Simpsons Game,' " he said.

EA also did all it could to raise prelaunch awareness for the title, including releasing demo levels on Xbox Live and the PlayStation.

"There are TV spots that feature animation from the same people who draw the show and the movie," he said. "Plus, when we went to them with ideas for ads, the writers would come to us, suggesting what the characters could say."

EA has yet to commit to a sequel. Said Hans Tencate, lead producer for the game: "Along with our partners at Gracie Films and Fox, we're very eager to see how this one fares before we decide what to do next -- but I would love to do another one."