Microsoft has decided to take the Wii by the horns, going head-to-head with Nintendo’s juggernaut by focusing on more “family-friendly” and casual games for its Xbox 360 console.

According to a Dow Jones Newswire report, the company plans to begin catering to different age groups, with cartoon-based titles and word puzzle games as two examples of game types the company will use to do so. Rare, a U.K. development studio acquired by Microsoft in 2002, will be behind many of the planned new games.

“A key strategy for us is to give broad choice for people,” said Alan Bowman, of Microsoft’s Asia-Pacific division. “You need to provide content which broadens your base of users from core gamers to different age groups.”

Saying that Rare is already “starting to produce games with very, very broad appeal,” Bowman added, “If you look at Guitar Hero, it’s something which can be played by the whole family, by kids, males, females, adults. Kids also love our Viva Piñata Party Animals game, so it’s games like that.”

While the effort to compete directly with Wii is obvious, some analysts warned that the software represents only part of Nintendo’s ascension in the industry, and that Microsoft would also have to make moves on the hardware front to fully meet Nintendo head-on. “Besides software, [Microsoft] also need a new controller,” said UBS Securities Japan analyst Shunsuke Tsuchiya. “They need to change interface and offer a unique new hardware.”

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