Viva Piñata opened up for 360s

Microsoft, Rare, 4Kids team up on cross-media kids' property; treat-filled animals headed to Xbox 360 and Fox's Saturday mornings this fall.

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If you had blindfolded humans trying to beat you and feast on your sugary entrails, you'd probably seek sanctuary on a remote island, too. Such is the case with Viva Piñata, a new entertainment property announced by software giant Microsoft and children's programming provider 4Kids Entertainment.

The property will premiere simultaneously this fall as an Xbox 360 game and as a computer-animated TV show on 4Kids Entertainment's Saturday morning block of children's programming on Fox. The partners involved also hope to take Viva Piñata "beyond" television and games sometime in the future. Under an agreement between Microsoft and 4Kids announced in mid-January, 4Kids will serve as the exclusive holder of the property's licensing rights.

The game and TV show will focus on living "piñata animals" that inhabit Piñata Island. Safe from the beatdowns of birthday-party revelers, the piñatas will go on "wild adventures" and "maintain a living garden ecosystem that grows in real time." Piñatas will also be tasked with attracting different animal species and propagating their own.

Rare, a Microsoft-owned studio that previously developed exclusively for Nintendo, will handle development of Viva Piñata. The game has the hurdle of broadening the customer base of the Xbox 360, attempting to attract a younger audience for Microsoft's next-generation console. While Rare is well known for more mature games like Killer Instinct and GoldenEye, it also has its share of experience with family-friendly fare, including Grabbed by the Ghoulies for the Xbox and Kameo: Elements of Power for the Xbox 360.

The practice of developing projects simultaneously for games and other media outlets is becoming more commonplace, as evidenced by Midway Games, MTV, and Paramount Pictures' joint announcement of The Wheelman, an idea created at Midway. Instead of basing games on external properties, game companies are creating ideas of their own and pitching the IP to other companies to make the jump to film or television.

Like The Wheelman and Midway, the idea for Viva Piñata was created by Rare, giving the studio a head start on the game's development. The general manager of Microsoft Game Studios, Shane Kim, says that Rare has been working on the project in secret for three years now, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Earlier this week, GameSpot got a chance to take a few whacks at an early build of Viva Piñata. Check out our preview for more information.

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