By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: More than 350 game industry professionals joined hosts Merrick and Rosso at the Interactive Entertainment Awards this week to announce the best video games of 2006, with honours given to Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.

Organised by the Interactive Entertainment Association Australia (IEAA), the annual event unveiled the winners of 20 categories, based on industry panel votes and sales figures, with new categories such as Girls Game of the Year, Best selling Party/Social Game and Best Selling Children’s Educational Game being included for the first time.

“The latest national research shows that today 41 per cent of gamers are females, and more than one third of gamers are parents,” said IEAA CEO, Chris Hanlon.

“As the market focuses on these growing demographics, we expect to see more games that Mum, Dad and all the kids can play together,” he said.

“Gaming is seen as a social activity with people playing together in the same room or online. We’re undoubtedly set to see a further rise in the popularity of games aimed at females and families groups,” said Hanlon.

The most highly coveted title of 2006 went to the Xbox 360 exclusive, Gears of War, which took out the Samsung Xbox 360 Game of the Year award, as well we GameSpot AU Editor’s Choice Award and the Game1 Ultimate Game of the Year prize.

The infamous World of Warcraft took out the title for IEAA’s Online Game of the Year, Guitar Hero 2 was named as Post logistic’s PlayStation Game of the Year and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was named as IEAA’s Nintendo Game of the Year.

Nintendo’s innovation, through its new Wii console, was also recognised with Wii Sports winning the IEAA’s Most Innovative Game of the Year.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Cars, Lego Star Wars 2, Need For Speed Carbon, WWE Smackdown Vs Raw 2007, Nintendogs Dalmatian & Friends, Singstar Rocks! and Barbie & the Magic of Pegasus were all recognised as best sellers in their respective categories based upon GfK sales data from January 1 2006 to December 31 2006.