Can James Patterson and Jane Jensen bridge the genre gap?

Can James Patterson and Jane Jensen bridge the genre gap?
Michael French

By Michael French

February 5th 2008 at 2:00PM

Oberon's pairing of bestselling author and Gabriel Knight creator plans to blend casual games with adventure titles

James Patterson, the author of bestselling crime novels such as Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls, has been discussing his casual game collaboration with Gabriel Knight creator Jane Jensen saying he wants to reach new audiences in a way akin to Nintendo's demographic-busting Wii.

Oberon Media, where Jensen now works, is handling the casual game adaptations of Patterson's book and TV franchise Women's Murder Club. The first game adapts the first of his books in the series and the plan is to push gaming out to a wider demographic.

He told the Hollywood Reporter's Paul Hyman: "It strikes me that the video game area is an incredibly lucrative niche market. One populated by a small number of boys -- and grownup boys -- who like to shoot things and spend a lot of money. But that excludes most of the universe.

"What I love about this project is the chance to widen the boundaries of what people can do on the small screen, sort of like what the [Nintendo] Wii is accomplishing. We're going to give people who don't want to shoot things ... who prefer to use their brains ... a chance to solve a really good mystery. This will open up a whole new arena to a lot of people who don't play games now. I believe that market is huge."

Jensen added that the firm hopes the bridge the gap between casual and adventure game.

"We are sort of baby-stepping our way towards a full adventure game while still keeping the elements that I believe are really good about casual games," she said. "Meaning that it has to be immediately intuitive with no barriers for entry and it has to be immediately rewarding."

She also said that the game will go beyond a usual licenced title, citing Oberon's work on recent Agathy Cristie-based titles as previousy form: "We did a very respectable job with the Agatha Christie games and really added something to the Agatha Christie world; we intend to do the same with the Patterson world.

"I, as a company co-founder, am working on this project full-time myself. I wrote the story for it myself. I'm designing everything myself. And I'm closely monitoring the project as creative director. So it's not like we took the Patterson brand name and tossed it onto just anything."

Both author and game designer anticipate plenty of cross over between the casual games set and Patterson's readership, too.

The game, said Jensen will "not only to the core casual game audience but also to people who are familiar with the name Women's Murder Club and to people who aren't necessarily casual gamers but who are James Patterson fans."

Added Patterson: "Look at the book business. The audience is 70-something-per cent female. My readers are 70-something-per cent female. And the majority of people who play casual games is the same. So I think the market for what we're doing - games that are more sensitive and are centered on character, not shooting - will be monstrous."