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Electronic Arts Launching New Line of 'Sims' Video Games

Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS) on Tuesday announced a new line of video games called "The Sims Stories" aimed at the laptop-toting youth market as it strives to deliver a bigger proportion of titles based on more lucrative company-owned material.

Players of "The Sims" control virtual people called Sims as they sleep, eat, cook, socialize, buy things and work.

"The Sims" is the No. 1 franchise at EA, the world's biggest video game publisher, which has sold more than 70 million games globally since 2000.

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It also has a broader audience than most games. Half of its players are female — unlike most commercial video game audiences, who are mostly male.

"The Sims Life Stories" is the first in the new series and is due in the United States and Europe in the first week of February.

"The Sims Pet Stories" and "The Sims Castaway Stories" are scheduled to ship in mid-2007 and late 2008, respectively.

EA aims to use the new titles to expand the "Sims" audience to more casual players and is targeting multitasking MySpace teens and consumers in their early 20s with the new games.

"The Sims Life Stories" has a comic-romantic plot and offers a new story mode, which runs through 12 chapters of a set story line, while also supporting the franchise's traditional open style of play.

All of "The Sims Life Stories" games are designed to run on laptops and do not require upgraded graphics cards, as many PC games do. The games can also be played for hours or minutes in a window while other programs, such as instant messaging or e-mail, run simultaneously.

The games have a "Teen" rating and will retail for $40.

American Technology Research analyst Paul-Jon McNealy said the franchise-expanding move comes at a time when "The Sims" was due for a refresh and fits in with EA's goal of creating more games with internally owned properties — which have better margins than games based on licensed material such as films.

It also comes amid changes in the laptop market.

"The laptop market has opened up to a younger demographic in the last seven years," McNealy said.

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