Playboy: The video game
Virtual Hef and his digital playmates invite you into the mansion next fall.
May 13, 2003: 4:53 PM EDT
By Chris Morris

LOS ANGELES (CNN/Money) Beautiful women everywhere I turn? Celebrities who try to rub shoulders with me? Running a global business with near universal name recognition?

Yeah. I could get used to this.

Playboy (PLA: Research, Estimates) is getting into the gaming business, with a new corporate division that will launch next November. Along with publishers Arush Entertainment and Groove Games and development house Cyberlore, the company will release "Playboy: The Mansion", a new game for the PC and two console systems.

"It looks like a lucrative area we're getting into," said Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy. "It's a logical step. One might suggest it's overdue. The video game industry is huge right now and [the games are played] by a lot of people who read Playboy."

Slipping into Hef's silk pajamas, you'll face the challenges and rewards of building the Playboy empire.

One of those rewards will be building, expanding and living in the Playboy mansion, something that should be pretty straightforward to players of both "The Sims" and world-building "Tycoon" games. As your income increases, you'll be able to add things like tennis courts, a zoo, the famous back lawn and a game house and extra bedrooms for your guests. Since you're Hef, of course, you'll always have houseguests -- both "celebrities" (such as tennis star 'Borris McEnroe') and Playmates -- and host lavish parties.

To get money to spiff up the mansion, you'll have to keep Playboy magazine running smoothly, changing the magazine to meet market conditions and scoring celebrity interviews. Of course, the gameplay element that will generate the most attention is over-seeing Playmate photo-shoots.

Hey! These silk PJs are comfy!  
Hey! These silk PJs are comfy!

Yes, there is nudity in this game and it's probably not going to be just polygons. Exactly how much skin (digital or physical) will be shown still has to be determined, though. The photo-shoots right now are of computer generated characters, not "live" models. You'll rotate the in-game camera around while the Playmate poses, then choose from a gallery of your shots to determined which should go on the cover. It's a safe bet, though, that one of the many in-game rewards players will collect is access to the Playboy photo archive.

Including nudity is something that's pretty much expected when you're putting together a Playboy game. Still, it's bound to polarize people and adds an element of risk for Arush and Cyberlore. The industry, after all, is still cleaning up the public relations disaster that was "BMX XXX", a much-reviled title that blended DVD-quality strip club footage and a biking video game for little discernable reason.

"What they did [with 'BMX XXX'] was horrendous," said Joe Minton, CEO of Cyberlore. "Nudity can be done very classy, very respectful and done for mature audiences."

It's not for every gamer, though. As such, Arush and Groove are developing different versions of the game for the different platforms. While the PC version likely will be the raciest of the three, at least one of the console versions will not feature any nudity. (Because approval rights are still being negotiated, the publishers cannot name which consoles they will be building for.)

"It's going to be an M-rated game, but at this stage it's no more risqu than any other product on the market," said John Walsh, president of Groove.

Another potential challenge is the competition specifically "The Sims 2". Like "Playboy: The Mansion", it offers a 3D environment and lets the player's decisions determine his or her own fate. Winning and losing are strictly relative terms.

"Playboy: The Mansion" offers that sort of sandbox play letting you decide what your goals will be. It also offers more structured gaming, with specific tasks to complete. And, of course, this title has a much different focus than "The Sims" something Minton is quick to point out.

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"We're not mimicking mundane life here," he said. "There's no vacuuming. There's no changing babies."

Cyberlore's not a rookie developer. The company has created several well-known and well-received games, including "Majesty", "Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries" and the upcoming adaptation of "Risk" for the Playstation. And Arush and Groove both have several successful titles under their belt.  Top of page

Morris is Director of Content Development for CNN/Money. Click here to send him an e-mail.

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