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Video-Game Makers Push 'Family' Fare for Holidays

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.

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