games reporter

Shorts contest part of Nintendo's longer view

Nintendo already has captivated the mass market with its Wii and Nintendo DS systems; in U.S. homes alone, there are 2.5 million Wiis and 10.9 million Nintendo DS portables. The systems have topped the sales charts every month this year.

Now the company that holds the No. 1 spot in the video game industry has teamed with Hollywood and taken a page from YouTube. Through Tuesday, its Nintendo Short Cuts Showcase offers fans the chance to create short films or videos that focus on their passion for Nintendo. The entries will be judged by Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aimes, Tribeca Film Festival senior programmer David Kwok and editor Lew Harris, and the top three submissions will be shown during the Rockefeller Center's annual summer film showcase June 19-22.

"Video games, like movies, are a creative endeavor," Nintendo vp marketing Perrin Kaplan says. "We thought it would be fun to have film students concoct their own vision of the Nintendo video game experience. So, whether it be a comedy or drama, live action or animated, these budding Spielbergs can have a chance to share their creations with their peers and the motion picture community at this respected festival."

Kaplan says opening the showcase to the broader filmmaking public reflects Nintendo's message that video games are fun for everyone.

"We expect to get high-quality entries from film students, indie filmmakers and creative talents of all kinds that spark the imagination the same way our games do," she says.

The winner will receive a trip to New York, $10,000 and a meeting with Tribeca co-founder Craig Hatkoff, along with a Wii, a Nintendo DS and games. The second- and third-place finishers receive a Wii and games.

"Wii has been embraced by a wide number of people, some of who have never picked up a video game in their life," Kaplan says. "By making gaming accessible and easy to learn, we've opened the gaming doors to a wide variety of people. We're hoping our Short Cuts Showcase will open some avenues for filmmakers as well."

Entries already are up on YouTube, a site from which Nintendo has taken a page with its new Everybody Votes channel. As part of Wii's online service, gamers can vote on questions and see how they rank against other users. It's likely that over time, video voting will become a part of the channel; companies like Electronic Arts are introducing video voting through such upcoming Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games as "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08" and "Skate."

The advantage Nintendo has over its competition is the makeup of its consumers, Kaplan says. Homes with a Wii find regular gaming among all age groups: A whopping 95% of males ages 6-24 play Wii regularly, while 61% of males 25-49 and one-third of females 25-49 are regular users. Older gamers also are playing, with 16% of males and 10% of females over 50 spending quality time on the system.

That bodes well for any future endeavors targeted at a more mass-market audience.
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