Advergames developed specifically for the Xbox 360 Kinect are gaining momentum as a new way to connect with consumers. Kinect allows users to interact with Xbox 360 games without a controller, using body movements and gestures alone. Intel and Nike have now exploited this format with great success.
In the gaming world the Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect technology is big news. Selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, the Microsoft Kinect actually has bagged the Guinness World Record of being the “fastest selling consumer electronics device”.
So what is this Microsoft Xbox Kinect technology all about?
In a short sentence, Microsoft have just removed the joypad from the gaming equation, and allowed body movements to act as the stimuli for the game being played by the “hands-free” gamer. Once you wave your hand to activate the sensor, your Kinect game will be able to recognize you and access your chosen Avatar. After that, you can to jump in and out of different games, and show off and share your moves. Your chosen Avatar gets “enlivened” and begins to mirror all your actions.
Here’s more about how it all works …
The Kinect device looks a little like a wide-ish web cam and is intended to sit beneath your TV. The three lenses on the front make up an RGB color camera for capturing photos and video, as well as for tracking facial recognition (via a CMOS sensor and an infrared emitter which work in tandem as a 3D sensor, tracking the movement of the player).
The device is apparently able to track up to 20 body joints and up to 48 different body points on each gaming participant. It is able to use facial recognition to differentiate between users, and lets a gamer sign in to his Xbox Live account simply by looking into the camera. Up to two gamers can be currently separately tracked for body movements by the sensor. Future upgrades may allow up to six players to be tracked.
Since Microsoft recommends that you have at least an eight-foot space free in front of your TV to play the games, you may have to get rid of a lot of your furniture. Alternatively, you can also put the TV in front of your window and play from the back garden, for instance. The Kinect package also includes a microphone, letting players communicate with the Xbox 360 via voice. Players can indulge in video chats without having to wear headsets. Additionally, Kinect also allows gamers to interact with the Xbox 360 menu system via gestures and hand movements. So holding up your hand, for example, could mean “… pause the game”.
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Serious gamers expecting lightning quick responses from the Kinect system make much of the slight latency that seems to be deterring the translation of their movement into on-screen action. But in actual fact, this lag is barely about a thirtieth of a second. The Kinect can also tilt and pan to adapt to different player heights and thus mimic more elaborate body movements. (It also seemingly senses when a game isn’t Kinect compatible, whereupon it tilts downwards in a “sulky robot” imitation!)
The whole Kinect project is aimed at broadening the Xbox 360’s audience beyond its typical gamer base. Controller-free gaming and full body play means that anyone can be good at the games. The Kinect faithfully responds to bodily actions, so all that you have to do to enjoy a game is to get off the couch and start moving. Whether you’re a practised gamer or not, you can have a real blast. What’s more, Kinect incorporates parental controls, making it safe, secure fun for people of all ages.
Two great international brands have courageously ventured into the Kinect space making “advergames” their latest format for reaching and engaging their target audiences.
Intel has launched “Intel Discovered”, an Xbox Kinect Advergame that aims to bring the Intel-driven virtual reality world to life. In the Intel game, the gamer can participate in an interactive gaming film, where his Avatar can fight in action scenes, deliver key dialogue lines, or have his photo taken on the red carpet. The gamer’s Avatar can also DJ for LMFAO and take away a bunch of personal photos, including a “magazine cover story” that the gamer can later show off on Facebook to tell friends about his “film-set adventure”.
The whole interactive game lasts about twenty minutes, and is (according to avid gamers) “one hell of an engaging experience”. Whether Intel will create something special or extra for the game around the Cannes season is the big question in gaming circles.
Nike, the other big brand to hop onto the advergames bandwagon, have decided to stick with their key branding theme of sports and fitness. The new Nike+ game for Xbox 360 Kinect allows gamers to fitness-train at home as part of the game. The Nike game initially allows a starter test to judge the gamer’s beginning fitness level and thereafter assists him in building a custom fitness program (with the help of professional on screen coaches). As a gamer starts exercising before the Xbox Kinect screen his chosen Avatar replicates his moves. A participant can earn “fuel points” for good performance, and track his fitness regime for perfection of moves by using the Kinect to precisely measure every action.
For companies and brands wanting to get into advergaming, there are some vital tips being offered by the people who have already pioneered in this space.
For a start, making a successful advergame is a bit tricky compared to other types of video games. Remember, the game itself provides less excitement because it all depends on how exciting the gamer makes the game for himself. If a brand wishes to make advergaming exciting and engaging, it has to sufficiently motivate the gamer to make an elaborate game of it!
Garry Kitchen, the President, CEO and Co-founder of Skyworks, an advergaming “specialist” has often been asked how he would describe a successful advergame. He advocates that the game-production house creating the game has to first of all understand branding, and it then has to be able to sit down with a brand-owning company and be able to talk their marketing language. When it starts creating the actual game it has to tread a very fine line between making the game state of the art and also allowing the right brand values to come through. If the game is fun but the gamers don’t derive the right type of “brand experience” then the client has clearly wasted money. On the other hand, if the game is too much about the brand message and fails to be a “really absorbing and innovative game” savvy gamers will take just one look at it and then be dismissive of the game in the social media.
How should companies and their agencies ideally approach making an advergame? For instance, will the client have to propose the game idea or should the client simply give the agency a product or brand and they then create the idea? “It really varies by client,” says Kitchen. For example, clients might say, “We’re running this TV campaign and we want a game to mirror it.” At other times it may be an open brief like, “Here’s our brand, and here’s our message. Run with it.”
With the expanded penetration of broadband, the possibilities for advergaming seem to be endless. I am personally tracking the advergaming space very seriously, so do stay tuned into my website to hear the latest as it happens.
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