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Nintendo has a plan to prevent misbehavior on Miiverse for Wii U

The company has developed a three-pronged strategy to keep the social network feeds for its upcoming game console free of profanity — or worse.

June 07, 2012|By Alex Pham and Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times
  • Alexis Bujosa, center, with two people dressed as characters from the Nintendo Wii U game "Tank Tank Tank" at the E3 conference Wednesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The new console is set to launch this year.
Alexis Bujosa, center, with two people dressed as characters from the Nintendo… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

When Nintendo on Sunday announced its Miiverse social network for its upcoming Wii U game console, skeptics asked how long it would take before troublemakers would overrun the feeds with profanity — or worse. Given that users will be able to post drawings and scribbles they create on the Wii U's GamePad touch-screen controller, keeping things clean would seem to be an especially challenging matter.

Nintendo's chief executive, Satoru Iwata, has already given the matter some thought.

In an interview Tuesday, Iwata said Nintendo planned to use a three-pronged approach to combat misbehavior.

The first is content filtering, which will be done with software that can scan for naughty words. Secondly, because gamers can be creative with alternative spellings, the company also plans to use "human resources" and will hire people to monitor Miiverse. That will mean a delay between the time a user creates a post and when it appears in the Miiverse feed. Although Iwata did not specify how long the delay would be, he said he considered 30 minutes to be an "acceptable" lag.

The third protection will be the community itself, as users will be able to flag inappropriate content.

But that's not ideal because it means that some users will almost certainly have seen an offending post before it is taken down.

JC Fletcher, managing editor of Joystiq, a site for game news and reviews, suggested another idea — a friend list for kids below 13. Parents could set the console to show posts only from people their children know.

"And, hopefully their friends aren't creeps," Fletcher said.

In other E3 news, Warner Bros. unveiled two new video games this week, with the words "Batman" and "Middle Earth" in their titles. That's no surprise because "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hobbit" are the studio's two biggest remaining movie releases of 2012.

What's surprising? The games have virtually nothing to do with the films.

Stung by poor sales across the industry for video games closely tied to movies — including Warner's own "Green Lantern" and "Happy Feet Two" last year — Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment this year is taking an entirely different approach.

"Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes" will be released June 19, a month ahead of "The Dark Knight Rises." Unlike the dark, violent film, the video game is a lighthearted adventure featuring Batman, his allies and villains, and other superheroes.

"Guardians of Middle-Earth" will launch this fall, in advance of the Dec. 14 theatrical debut of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." But it has no connection to the story of Peter Jackson's film. It's an online combat game, similar to the popular "League of Legends," that features characters from "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

"The movie-based game doesn't really perform well anymore and we need to find where that business went," Warner Interactive President Martin Tremblay said Tuesday in an interview. "We want to try out something different, and after we see how that does we'll readjust ourselves."

Warner has already established itself as the most successful Hollywood studio making this kind of video game. Its three biggest franchises are "Arkham," which features Batman in a story line different from the films or comic books; the Lego family series it acquired along with developer TT Games; and "Mortal Kombat," which came with its purchase of Midway Games.

Now, Tremblay said he wants to find a way to capitalize on the heightened attention surrounding high-profile movie releases, while still distinguishing the game.

"It's weird for a movie studio to be thinking this way," he acknowledged.

Warner Bros. had a significant presence at the E3 convention this year thanks to its close partnership with Nintendo on the Wii U console, set to launch later this year. The Burbank studio is releasing five games designed for the new device, a contrast with some other publishers such as Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts that are moving more cautiously.

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