I was lucky enough to be invited along to an event held by games developer Rare, to play Kinect Sports (aff link), which has been developed for the new Kinect peripheral for the Xbox. I’ll write more about the game itself at the end, but a few other things struck me about the event.
Number one, it was the first event I’ve been to without any corporate affiliation for as long as I can remember. Even when not directly related, I’ve always been able to reference my employer during introductions, etc. This time I was purely there as a fan and independent freelance something or other, which was a little strange but also nice. It also meant that I hopefully spent more time listening and asking questions.
Number two – the event itself, #kinectsportsday, was really interesting as previously Rare had a reputation for keeping itself to itself since it began, 25 years ago. And the location of the offices backs that up – out in the countryside, hidden away behind a gatehouse and winding driveway.
But this event had been created purely to let people from ‘smaller’ sites and forums, competition winners, and fans, all get a chance to not only play the game before the next chance the mainstream press will get, but also to speak to the designers and developers all day long. There were probably 40-50 guests in attendance, and probably around 10 Rare employees, which meant an awesome amount of time to chat with the people that made the various elements of the game. And there were no limits of what you could ask etc.
It was a really nice piece of engagement – not only allowing people more access than they’d ordinarily have, but also building relationships with fans and sites which will either continue to have a strong following for Rare, or could end up being the next big thing.
Put simply, I spend a lot of time telling people how great it would be to open up to your fans and consumers – engage with them, give them access, chat and talk with them etc. And Rare let me feel exactly how great it is to be on the receiving end of that as someone who actually started playing their games 25 years ago.
Kinect Sports and Kinect:
So for those interested in gaming as much as marketing/engagement and my own identity crisis…
I think I’m finally converted to motion games – as fun gaming,rather than a distraction during parties. And I think the main reason for that is that the Kinect doesn’t make you hold a device to track/input motion – which means that when you become immersed in a game, it seems easier for my brain to fill in the gaps and make it feel more realistic. I’d definitely say for this type of sports game, I’d pick the Kinect version over the Wii version any day.
And part of that is down to the fact Kinect Sports is really nicely done. A total of six disciplines (Football, Bowling, Track & Field, Table Tennis, Boxing and Beach Volleyball) all contain normal versions of the sports (with single player, versus and co-operative modes), and minigame variations, which tend to be fun and frenetic.
There didn’t seem to be any lag in detecting movements and translating them on screen, graphically it looked pretty good (certainly above what would be required), and they’ve licensed enough suitable music and injected enough humour that I’d actually be tempted to play this in single player, which doesn’t happen often with party-orientated games.
I’ll write a more lengthy post concentrating on the gaming side of things for www.onlineracedriver.com now, but I think games like this are going to bridge the gap even more between games who actually own and play games, and those with a more casual interest/non-gamers as part of the overall convergence of entertainment devices. It’ll be interested to see how they continue to promote it versus the ‘celebs at home’ approach of Nintendo at the moment, as I think the Xbox platform has a lot more potential to crossover now as a media device/console/party game machine.