Microsoft, 4Kids Take a Swing at Piñata

Microsoft and children’s-content provider 4Kids are hoping piñatas will capture kids’ attention on TV and in videogames. The two have teamed up for Viva Piñata, a half-hour TV series which will launch this fall on Fox’s Saturday-morning kids block, an Xbox 360 game that will be in stores months later for the holiday buying season, and a line of merchandise for 2007.

4Kids,which produces and licenses TV and film content, has launched videogames for Pokėmon and Yu-Gi-Oh!, but this property is the first it has developed in tandem with Microsoft for the Xbox 360 console. The CGI-animated half-hour TV show is a comedic look at a group of some 60 piñatas who inhabit the fictional “PiñataIsland” until they reach “maximum candiosity.” Twenty-six episodes are set for the fall.

Targeting 6- to 12-year-olds, the show will contain tips and hints to drive viewers to buy and play the interactive videogame by the same title, which was developed by Microsoft-owned game developer Rare Ltd. The game’s goal for each player is to develop a corner of the island in a way that is pleasing enough to the piñatas that they want to live there.

Microsoft, 4Kids and Rare announced the joint venture today at an hour-long press conference in New York, to which licensers, press and others were summoned with no notice as to what was being announced. During a presentation in which executives from the three companies screened a clip of the characters and walked attendees through a prototype of the game’s piñata-inhabited wilderness, Microsoft Game Studios General Manager Shane Kim called the game “the most important title Microsoft Game Studio will reveal in 2006.”