Winter Olympics video game offers icy realism
The Cutting Edge
By Denise Hamilton
Sports and gaming fans can experience the thrill of victory
and the agony of defeat as they navigate through a video game
that re-creates the Japanese ski slopes, bobsled runs and
slalom jumps to be traversed by athletes competing in the
Nagano Winter Olympics '98, just released, was designed and
manufactured by Konami Co. in Japan, a leading developer of
"They've got the layout of the mountain, the architectural
drawings ... Everything is exact to what's going to happen in
the real Olympics," said Randy Severin, senior products
manager for Konami of America Inc., the U.S. subsidiary based
Severin says two teams of up to 40 designers spent a year
developing the game in Japan, working with Olympics officials
who have licensed it as the official video game of the Winter
Games in Nagano, Japan.
"You'll see a snowboarding game out there and some skiing
games, but nothing that has 12 or 13 events that are all
unique," he says.
Nagano Winter Olympics '98 features 3-D-mapped texture in CAD
design and mapped polygon athletes. Players can move from
Alpine downhill skiing to giant slalom, speedskating,
ski-jumping, bobsled, luge and curling.
Konami officials say they are targeting 12- to 30-year-old
"It should do well because it's got a lot of sports," says
Greg Zilberbrand, a supervisor at Software Etc. in Culver
City (California's) Fox Hills Mall, who says consumers have
already come into the store looking for it.
The game is available for Sony PlayStation for about $50 and
for Nintendo 64 for $65 and can accommodate one to four
players, the company says.
Game Informer magazine's Web site said in its preview that
Nagano Winter Olympics '98 would have "plenty of
button-tapping in many of the race events, such as
speedskating. Other events, such as ski-jumping and slalom
skiing, will require more timing and directional movements."
But will this site- and time-specific video game have a shelf
life once the athletes jet home from Narita Airport?
"It should," Severin says. "Sure, some of the hype will go
away, but it's a fun game to play. It's not just for athletes
or gaming fans. It's for everyone."
Konami officials point to the success of an earlier game,
International Track and Field, that was released in mid-1996
to coincide with the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Although
Severin declined to give figures, he says that game is still
selling well, a claim confirmed by Zilberbrand at Software
Severin says Konami is still in talks about video game
licenses for the Sydney Summer Olympics in 2000.
Konami releases about four major titles a year and has
produced sports games before, including International
Superstar Soccer 64 and a baseball game called MLBPA: Bottom
of the 9th.
Konami was launched in Japan in 1969 as a distributor of
pachinko machines and has grown phenomenally, moving
aggressively into the video game market. In Japan alone, the
firm has 700 research and development employees creating
Last year, the publicly traded firm posted half a billion
dollars in revenue.
(Denise Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(c) 1998, Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Los Angeles Times