Ubisoft opens casual Play Zone

Publisher reaches out to nontraditional gamers with new Wii-specific label; brand launches July 11 with Sports Party.

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For the month of May, Nintendo cleaned up both the hardware and software sales charts. As reported by the NPD Group, more than 675,000 Wiis were sold in the US last month, with another 452,000 DS systems sold on top of that. As for the games, seven of the top 10 software titles appeared on Nintendo's platforms. However, save for Activision and its ubiquitous Guitar Hero III, those best-selling titles were all Nintendo creations, and third-party titles have struggled to achieve similar success.

Signaling an intent to better tap into the Wii market's casual-leaning tastes, Ubisoft said today that it will be establishing the Play Zone label. The division's purpose will be to create Wii-exclusive party games and minigame compilations that "provide immediate entertainment and recreation."

The first title to bear Play Zone branding will be Sports Party, due out for the Wii on July 11. The game offers a variety of different athletic ventures--such as basketball, croquet, lawn darts, badminton, volleyball, horse shoes, and minigolf--and will primarily involve gesture-based gameplay using the Wii Remote. Each sport can be played on three difficulty settings, and the minigames will offer both cooperative and competitive modes.

Ubisoft is already a strong player in the casual game market. As part of its $1.5 billion fiscal year-end report last month, the publisher said that its Petz line of games had passed the 8 million unit milestone, while its Imagine titles had topped the 4 million unit mark.

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