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‘Just Dance’ sequel hopes to shimmy back into the spotlight

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Just Dance 2

If the rhythm game genre is on life support, no one told Ubisoft.

Released as a Wii exclusive in November of 2009, their seemingly
simple dance game Just Dance went on to shatter expectations by selling
over four million copies worldwide, trouncing just about every game not
named Call of Duty or Mario on the monthly sales charts. And it managed that despite low review scores and very little media hype. It's a rare feat, the sort of thing that happens only a few times per console generation.

Ubisoft, however, is betting this isn't just a case of catching
lightning in a bottle. Ask them about the dance game genre and they'll
tell you that the party is just getting started.

"This dance category is going to explode. We don't know how big it
can be...I think it's much bigger than what anybody realizes at the
moment," senior VP of sales and marketing Tony Key told Gamasutra this week. "We just feel in our gut that this category is going to take off... And we're investing in it."

That's no joke. Next week sees the release of Just Dance 2, and while
you might not know it from its lack of coverage in prominent video game
websites or magazines, it's got a good shot at picking up where its
forbear left off.

The new game doesn't change the formula so much as spice it up a bit.
Players still follow on-screen prompts while dancing to a set list of
pop songs; this time they've got over 40 tracks, from classics like
Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" to newer hits like Rihanna's "S.O.S." It also
features a new workout mode to help players shape up while getting
down.

It's even taking a cue from big brothers Guitar Hero and Rock Band by
aligning with a megastar. In this case, it's "it"-girl Katy Perry, who
will release her new single "Firework" as a free download the day the
game hits stores.

The success of Just Dance 2 will be an interesting litmus test for
Ubisoft, who have thrown quite a few eggs into the dance game basket.
The company will ship two more titles -- King of Pop dance game Michael
Jackson: The Experience and Just Dance spinoff Just Dance: Kids -- in
late November, potentially cornering the virtual dance market on the
Wii.

That would be quite a feat. It's been a rough road for rhythm games
this year, with revenues far below 2009's numbers. But thanks to motion
controllers like the Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect, analysts believe
dance gaming could be the genre's saving grace. Still, Ubi isn't
targeting the new tech for their dance products, instead focusing on the
Wii's broad audience.

But don't count that as a misstep just yet. High-profile console
releases often cannibalize one another during the busy holiday sales
period (or they get sucked into the Call of Duty vacuum; another one of
those is due to form when Black Ops releases in early November). Wii
owners will have more than their share of big games to choose from --
including nostalgic first-party Nintendo titles like Donkey Kong Country
Returns and Kirby's Epic Yarn -- but for the casual crowd, Just Dance 2
is likely near the top of the wish list.

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