EA Sports chief Peter Moore is no doubt proud of his team's "Madden" and "Tiger Woods" games this year.

But when I asked him what the highlights and lowlights were for EA Sports this year during a quick sit-down interview in New York last week, the first positive thing that came to his mind was … a Korean version of "FIFA."

Why?

Making the rounds this morning is the announcement of "EA Sports Active," a new fitness game/piece-of-software from EA shipping for the Wii next spring. The game trades in "Wii Fit"'s requirement of the balance board peripheral for mandatory use of a bundled "leg strap," a strap that wraps around one's upper thigh with a Wii nunchuck in its pouch, for tracking lower body movement.

EA is pushing that this game (product?) will give gamers a 30-day fitness goal, chopped into customized 20-minute workouts, differentiating it from "Wii Fit," which forces the player to make their own workout routine. EA is also promoting that the game has more of a heart-rate-pumping western approach to exercise, a differentiation from the yoga, push-ups and light jogging offerings of "Wii Fit."

But the hot-selling "Wii Fit" was really charming. Does "EA Sports Active" need to be charming? Does it need a cute balance board and some Mii support rather than the endorsement of fitness guru Bob Greene? We shall see.

More screenshots of the new peripheral in action and a fact-sheet info-dump below. Read More...

If you'd like Electronic Arts-branded versions of Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin as spaceships in your "Spore" world, you're in luck.

There are plenty of political creations in the Sporepedia, but Electronic Arts and Maxis have gone and created their own for users.

In their "Spore" profiles, Obama and Biden are rated with a smiley and listed as a "flourishing species," while McCain and Palin have a frown and are tagged as "endangered species." What's that say about "Spore" users?

In a note sent to gaming press, EA encouraged users to hop into the Sporepedia and vote for their favorites. "Who knows, you just might see Obama firing 'YesYouCannons' around the galaxy, or witness firsthand John McCain being 'mavericky,'" reads the note.

To see a much larger image of the candidates in "Spore" and some truly bizarre user-created alternatives to each of them, keep reading.


'Spore'In a press release to report quarterly earnings today, Electronic Arts announced that its PC game "Spore" sold "nearly" two million copies in its first three weeks of release.

That's positive news for a company that otherwise had to announce today that it was cutting six percent of its work force. Kotaku reports that that figure amounts to 600 jobs. EA's release claims that the cuts will save the company $50 million.

Company CEO John Riccitiello noted that game sales had slowed in October, but promised a brighter future. "Longer term, we are very bullish on the game sector overall and on EA in particular," he said in the quarterly release. "The industry is growing double-digits on the strength of three new game consoles and increases in the number of homes with broadband internet connections. EA is well positioned to benefit from these technology drivers due to the strength of our creative studios and our broad collection of game properties--from 'The Sims,' to 'Spore' and 'Madden NFL,' to 'Warhammer Online.'"

For the full press release, go to EA's investors site.

All day long we're presenting Patrick Klepek's favorite games of last week's Nintendo of America media summit.

Didn't I already rave about this one?

Yep, but at Nintendo's event last week, Electronic Arts had an updated "Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure."

EA handed me the cart and told me to go wild. They'd powered up the main character with a near-unbeatable amount of hearts, but this time pitted me against a boss character. The last time I went up against a "Henry Hartsworth" boss, I crashed the game.

Not this time. I was fighting an evil female graveyard creature who was upset because I'd just turned down her advances. Fighting bosses is where the dual-screen nature of "Henry Hatsworth"'s gameplay shines.

To swiftly defeat bosses, you need to make the two screens work hand-in-hand. For example, as you line up a shot at the boss on the platforming screen -- fired using the B button -- you'll want to switch to the puzzle section, as the bullet's in mid-flight. Why? Because solving a few puzzles on the other screen will power up the bullets before they reach their destination.

EA seems really happy with "Henry Hatsworth" so far. They should be. You'll be able to find out what I mean when the game drops in early 2009.

Possibly stealing a play from my colleague Tracey, I feel compelled to point out an amazing convergence in Holiday 2008 video game box art.

In October, Electronic Arts will release sci-fi horror game "Dead Space" and will try to attract gamers' eyes with this box art featuring a severed right hand:

'Dead Space'

In November, Electronic Arts will release Valve's co-op zombie horror game "Left4Dead" and will try to attract gamers' eyes with this box art featuring a severed left hand:


One could say that at EA, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Yes, one could say that.

And special bonus points to the first person to use these box arts to create one of those "Zelda"/"Star Fox"-style two-big-hands next to a big head. Maybe do it in "Little Big Planet"?

["Left4Dead" Image Credit: Kotaku]

Last week, I got a look at "The Sims 3" for the first time.

To be honest, I hadn't played "The Sims" since the release of the "Nightlife" expansion pack* for "Sims 2"; it was then I had the sudden realization that I should go outside and experience a real "nightlife."  (This is coming from the person who would later become a regular "World of Warcraft" player, so you can guess how that prospect turned out.)

Anyway, during a demo at a PR office in New York City, associate producer Lyndsay Pearson, ran down a few saucy, new details about the game that makes staying inside seem worthwhile: Read More...

EA Partners' David DeMartini Poses With Board Full of Secrets (Click to enlarge)

I'd like to see what's on the other side of the board in David DeMartini's office. And I'm sure you would, too.

DeMartini works at EA, where he oversees a team of about 60 people in the EA Partners program. Fueled by an undisclosed budget, EAP secures deals with top non-EA game developers from around the world. Among the people signed to the program are "Resident Evil" creator Shinji Mikami, the "Half-Life"/"Portal" development house Valve, "Doom" creators id software, MTV's "Rock Band" team and more.

On DeMartini's board -- on the side he won't put in front of a camera -- are the names of all the other developers and studios EAP has its sights on. (Click the image above for a bigger but still obscured look.)

During a recent phone interview I asked him about the other side of the board. "We're going to give away secrets here," DeMartini told me, getting my hopes up. Read More...

Mythic VP and lead "Warhammer Online" designer Mark Jacobs said it wouldn't take a billion dollars for a competing MMO to take on "World of Warcraft" -- maybe only $100 million.

"When certain people throw out ridiculous numbers, you know they're throwing out ridiculous numbers because they want to scare off competition or they want to make themselves seem invincible and that sort of nonsense," he said, referring to a statement Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick made at an investor meeting earlier this year.

"Realistically, if you're going into this space for the first time, and you want to compete with 'WoW' and you want to compete with us -- because we're going into that same space -- you've got to make sure that you have at least 100 million dollars," he said.

When I sat down with Jacobs last week during a demo of the game, we talked about what makes an MMO successful. Having worked in the industry creating MUDs in the '80s, online games in the '90s, and Mythic's biggest hit "Dark Age of Camelot" in 2001, he had some advice for those wanting to make it in the MMO business.

So why is $100 million the magic number?

"Spore" doesn't ship for the PC for a couple of weeks, but it's already out on iPods.

Electronic Arts snuck the cell-stage-only version of "Spore" onto the iTunes yesterday. This version of "Spore" is not compatible with the iPhone or iPod Touch. Those are coming soon.

Interestingly, this one controls far better than the iPhone version that I've played several times. The accelerometer-based controls there are a little unwieldy, while the iPod version manipulates your cell's motion with the thumbwheel.

EA claims you'll even be able to tap into the Sporepedia index of user-created creatures. So is this version of "Spore" worth five bucks?

More hands-on impressions after the jump:

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