By John Gaudiosi
RALEIGH, North Carolina (Billboard) - Jimmy Buffett has partnered with THQ to bring "Margaritaville Online" to Facebook and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) this fall, but attendees of E3 in Los Angeles will get a first look at the game. The casual online video game is targeting Buffett's devoted followers, known as Parrotheads, along with the 45 million Facebook gamers who play FarmVille.
Buffett, who is currently touring, will be at E3 at the THQ booth to promote the new game. "The Margaritaville laid back state of mind is inherently social, and THQ has captured the spirit of that lifestyle in this game," said Buffett. "With Margaritaville Online, fans across the globe can party together any time and any place."
Developed by Exploding Barrel Games, the 3D open world features tropical environments and a full catalog of Buffett's music. Players will be able to create their own island resort, play mini-games and interact with characters from Buffett's songs and literary works including Captain Tony and Joe Merchant. They'll even be able to create their own band.
Hollywood producer Frank Marshall is responsible for bringing Margaritaville to gamers, according to Danny Bilson, THQ's executive vice president of core games. While THQ was developing games based on M. Night Shyamalin's "The Last Airbender," Marshall, who is close with Buffett, explained the vision of what has become "Margaritaville Online" to the game publisher.
"Frank Marshall is essentially one of the producers on the game," said Bilson. "He and Jimmy work very closely with us on every element in the game. Everything in the game is based on ideas from the songs and books." Bilson said this Facebook game will stand out from games like Zynga's CityVille because Margaritaville Online is an immersive 3D world. At the same time, it has all the great core tenets of a Facebook social game where players can build a unique island resort, embark on adventures and socialize with friends.
This is the second social game from THQ, which released UFC Undisputed Fight Nation last year. Bilson said a third social game will be announced after E3.
"We think social games are a big part of our future," said Bilson. "In the social gaming space it's important to have an ecosystem of games to make the whole thing work, so that people can share and go from one world to the next. You're going to see THQ focusing some energies around that in the next year."
Buffett is the first musician to completely embrace the booming casual online gaming space. Artists like Lady Gaga and Dr. Dre have partnered with Zynga to connect with fans in games like CityVille and Mafia Wars, but those have focused on promoting music. Just as he has with his Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain, Margaritaville Online will allow fans to connect with Buffett in a unique way.