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Microsoft hopes DS helps Viva Piņata reach broader audience

Microsoft respects the handheld system of its console rival and sees it as a viable game development platform

Despite the fact that Nintendo is a rival in the console war, Microsoft respects the company's DS handheld and plans to take advantage of the system's audience.

"They see DS as a very viable platform," Joe Humfrey an engineer for UK development studio Rare, told our sister site Eurogamer during a visit to play the upcoming Viva Piņata DS game.

Since acquiring Rare in 2002, Microsoft has allowed the studio to maintain a handheld development team working on GBA and DS titles although it has not published any of them itself. Rare has even made one game directly for Nintendo during that time - last year's Diddy Kong Racing DS.

In the case of the THQ-published Viva Piņata: Pocket Paradise, Humfrey pointed out that it's in the software giant's own interest to have the game appear on the Nintendo machine.

"They put the Viva Piņata franchise on TV to reach a broad audience, they put it on PC to reach a different broad audience, and they're doing the same thing with the DS," he said. "They're trying to widen the audience of the franchise, basically."

Lead designer Gary Richards explained that this wouldn't be at the expense of dumbing down the game, however. "We wanted to tie it in with the TV series more, we thought that would be enough to get the younger audience into it. But we didn't want to lose any of the depth that Piņata had," he said.

The developers explained that their main headaches in bringing the 360 and PC game to the dual-screen portable was simply squeezing the amount of content - animations particularly - onto the cart, but the DS surprised them with its technical capacity.

"We were split into two camps, those who thought we could do it, and those who thought we couldn't do it," Humfrey said.

"But I don't think we ever got to the point where we had to start taking stuff out of the game," added Richards. "And the interface was never going to be an issue," he added, alluding to the ease of use of the DS' touch-screen controls.

A hands-on preview of Viva Piņata is now online at Eurogamer.net.

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