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The Week in Games: March 23, 2009

Real news from the virtual world:

— OVERBOARD: The audience for video games has changed a lot in the last few years, with more women and older players picking up joysticks.

That's created a demand for more games that families can enjoy together, like "Wii Sports" and "Rock Band," and publishers have had a hard time adjusting to a more lighthearted, casual style of play.

One way to attract those new gamers is with familiar titles — names like Scrabble, Yahtzee, Boggle and Trivial Pursuit. All those brands belong to Hasbro, and Electronic Arts has the electronic publishing rights to all of Hasbro's board games.

"It's the perfect time to have these products," says Chip Lange, general manager of EA's Hasbro division. "Everyone realizes this is a new form of family entertainment."

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EA had some success last year with the compilation "Hasbro Family Game Night" on the Nintendo Wii, and it's now introducing some of those games on Microsoft's Xbox Live.

Lange says the EA versions of games like Scrabble and Monopoly are more than just simple translations.

"We've invested some creativity in the brands," he says.

Lange says video versions of board games demand some changes.

"You can't allow anyone to be dormant for a long time," he says — so EA's "Trivial Pursuit," for example, lets other players score points by guessing whether the answering player will be correct.

Also, Lange says, a simple user interface is key: "You have to assume they don't know how to play a video game."

For online players, the Hasbro games will have leaderboards and tournaments, and EA is hoping that board game fans will cross over.

"We have the best opportunity yet to host the first truly national Scrabble tournament," Lange says.

— YOU'RE FIRED: Professional video gaming leagues may be growing, but the "sport" (if you want to call it that) will never catch on unless someone figures out a way to present it on television.

The latest attempt, Sci Fi Channel's "WGC Ultimate Gamer," tries to sell competitive gaming by mixing it with reality-show conventions.

It takes 12 telegenic gamers drawn from a number of leagues, including the World Cyber Games, and forces them to live together in a Los Angeles loft.

Each episode matches a "real-world" task to a related virtual challenge. For example, in episode one, competitors had to learn how to play musical instruments, then battle each other in "Rock Band 2."

So far, it's pretty awful, combining the lameness of reality-show cliches with the boredom of watching someone else play a video game. Wouldn't you rather just play "Rock Band" yourself?

— NEW IN STORES: Pikachu and pals return in Nintendo's "Pokemon Platinum" (DS). ... Games go Hollywood with Warner Bros.' "Wanted: Weapons of Fate" (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), Activision's "Monsters vs. Aliens" (most systems) and Midway's Vin Diesel-starring "Wheelman" (360, PS3). ... Square Enix delivers "Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time" (Wii, DS). ... Sega takes a crack at real-time strategy with "Stormrise" (360, PS3).