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Q&A: SingStar senior producer Paulina Bozek

"Sony's popular karaoke series is finally making its way to North America, and GameSpot sits down for a duet with one of the top persons on the project."

European gamers don't often have reason to gloat compared with their North American counterparts. Frequently having to wait months for hardware and software releases has driven many Europeans to importing games on a regular basis.

Fortunately, simultaneous worldwide releases are becoming increasingly common now. But European gamers have had it good in at least one respect recently--they've had access to some of Sony's most innovative titles ahead of their North American counterparts. SingStar, a party game as essential as Guitar Hero, is just one of the titles that European gamers are currently enjoying that isn't currently available on the other side of the Atlantic, along with the likes of Loco Roco and the Buzz! series.

Today, however, Sony Computer Entertainment America has announced that it's bringing a PlayStation 2 version of SingStar to North America this fall, presumably to pave the way for the PlayStation 3 version that was confirmed at May's Electronic Entertainment Expo.

While karaoke might seem like a terrifying prospect for many gamers, SingStar's masterstroke was to turn the traditional drunken Japanese pastime into a proper video game. Equipped with two microphones and a USB adapter, SingStar grades your singing ability based on pitch and timing, with bonus points awarded for hitting special notes and completing unbroken runs. Rounded off with good presentation and official licensed music videos, SingStar is a good example of a peripheral-based video game.

SingStar is now in its sixth iteration in Europe, and it caters to everyone's taste. There's a SingStar for every occasion, whether you're entertaining a bunch of twentysomething guys (SingStar Rocks!), your teenage niece (SingStar Popworld), or your mom (SingStar Anthems). There are so many tracks to choose from, and we wonder what form the US version will take. A Sony American spokesperson said: "The initial US release of SingStar will include hit songs relevant to the US market from a wide range of genres, ensuring there are songs that appeal to a variety of musical tastes."

So why such a long wait? "The release of SingStar in the US for PlayStation 2 is based on several factors, including market growth of the PlayStation 2 console and consumer demand for such a title. With the recent price drop of the PlayStation 2, we have the opportunity to attract more people to the platform, and SingStar is the type of product that appeals to wider audiences such as casual and female gamers. SingStar is a revolutionary entertainment experience that will help to push the platform to new heights while ushering in an era of more social gaming," the Sony America spokesperson said.

To learn more about the past, present, and future of SingStar, we spoke to Paulina Bozek, senior producer for the SingStar series.

GameSpot: SingStar has been very popular in Europe. What do you see as the key to its success?

Paulina Bozek: During the development of the original SingStar game, we were always conscious of the fact that we were developing a game, rather than a simulator or a voice trainer. This made us always focus on making the game fun above everything. Almost everyone likes to sing, even those that aren’t so good--the game brings out the exhibitionist in everyone. This, combined with the competitive element of the scoring system, the original music, original videos, expansive tracklists, and of course our SingStar microphones, combines to make a product we are really proud of.

GS: The series hasn’t yet made it over to the US and Japan. How come the series originated in Europe, especially given the popularity of karaoke in Japan?

PB: SingStar came about as the result of a research project into sound input for the PlayStation 2 at Sony Computer Entertainment’s London Studio. The technology to interact with the console using sound was created, and this eventually evolved into a singing game. SingStar was developed at the same studio which created the EyeToy series of games. Of course, Buzz is also a SCEE title developed in the UK--there are some really creative ideas coming out of European studios at the moment. We’re really excited that the PlayStation 2 version of SingStar is set for release in the US very soon.

GS: With six different versions of SingStar, are there any genres you’d still like to cover? A lot of people seem to be waiting for SingStar Brit pop or a '90s compilation.

PB: We are being contacted all the time with suggestions for future iterations of SingStar. There are loads of different tracks on our wish list and genres we would like to cover--rest assured that we will be continuing to release new versions on a very regular basis.

Posted on Jul 25, 2006



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