One of the hottest videogames last holiday season was the war game "Call of Duty 4."
This year, many stores will feature nonviolent games such as "LittleBigPlanet," which follows a cute little character through a dream world.
The Sony Corp. game is emblematic of the new family-friendly games and services that the videogame industry is counting on to address twin challenges: attract new players beyond largely young-male gamers and secure new revenue during a slowing economy.
Game makers such as Sony, Electronic Arts Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have poured millions of dollars into family-friendly fare. Nearly two-thirds of Sony's 20 new titles this season are casual or family-oriented.
In addition to "Little Big Planet," estimated to have cost $15 million, Sony is releasing new versions of the karaoke "SingStar" game. EA is tripling its offering of casual games to nine titles this year.
But a payoff may be harder to find than these games.
Analysts say the videogame industry may be overestimating demand. Mainstream players tend not to buy as many games as the violence-loving hardcore ones.
"There really is only room on the shelf for a couple [of family-friendly games], not 20," says Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.