I had the opportunity to speak with Jesse Sutton, co-founder and CEO of Majesco Entertainment, at a press event in New York aimed at generating excitement for the launch of NBA Baller Beats. Jesse was kind enough to share insight into the development process, what it’s like to work with Kinect, and Majesco’s upcoming release schedule.
Xavier Griffiths: How did NBA Baller Beats come about; what is the origin of this project?
Jesse Sutton: You know, I’ve been making games for 25 years. This is a really interesting story - every I tell this someone tells me that after the game is launched we should probably put it together in some sort of book form. So, Curtis Smith, who was here before, demonstrating the game, came to us with an idea. Actually we identified Curtis on You Tube; we’re always looking for potentially the next big thing. We found Curtis demonstrating an idea like this on Youtube. We thought, “this is really cool!”. We flew Curtis in and said “Tell us more about your idea. We love this concept” but the problem is, the Kinect didn’t exist yet so you couldn’t play with a basketball and a videogame.
After the Kinect came out and you had something that was a motion sensing camera we said there was an opportunity here but we’ve got to prove technology that will allow the Kinect to recognize the ball outside of your body. So we essentially took about six months to build that technology and we have it now, patent pending. It’s proprietary technology that we created and what we ultimately did was took that and went to the NBA with the idea. We partnered with them, partnered with Spalding, as the official basketball of the game (even thought it works with any kind of a ball except pure black), then we went out and got all of the hot music, licensed all of the music and put it together in the format of the game, and the rest is history.
More Mama is on the way.
Xavier Griffiths: So what kind of involvements do the NBA players have? You have Deron William on the cover from the Nets, but he’s away representing the USA in the Olympics so he couldn’t be part of this event. What kind of input did he and other players have?
Jesse Sutton: Deron Williams has been a fantastic partner. He’s been talking to kids for a long period of time and he hears what they want to do and what they don’t want to do in the game, he’s been helpful in offering us advice from that perspective.
Kenny Smith has also been fantastic. He is just an amazing human being. He is so passionate about this game. When we first sat down and met him, his eyes literally lit up when he heard about it and ultimately saw the game. He’s been incredible at creating awareness for the project going with a very grassroots approach. Going from camp to camp to camp all around the country this summer, making sure young adults get a chance to see this game.
Xavier Griffiths: What's it like working with Kinect? The game seems very responsive.
Jesse Sutton: So one of the things that we’re really excited about is that the accuracy of this product with the Kinect and our technology is literally 98%. It will be the most accurate Kinect game in terms of response when it releases. With a game like this, if it’s not authentically accurate it’s going to ruin the experience and we think we really have resolved that problem.
Baller Beats is bouncing towards a Kinect near you.
Xavier Griffiths: You have NBA Baller Beats coming out soon, that seems like it will at least make a splash, but what else can we expect from Majesco this season?
Jesse Sutton: We have a bunch of projects coming out, including Zumba Core that really focuses on the core. We’ve learned that that is the number one part of the body that adult women want to work on. We’re going to be offering them that on both Wii and the Kinect.
We’re also really excited having had the kind of success we’ve had on fitness that we’re bringing out a game called Harley Pasternak’s Hollywood Workout. Harley Pasternak is the Hollywood trainer to the biggest stars in the world - Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Katy Perry - it is an incredible list of A-list celebrities that he’s gotten into the greatest shape of their careers. So now you have the ability to work out with him in the privacy of your own home.
Alongside that we still have a few new Cooking Mama games, as well as a Hello Kitty game we’re bringing out on the DS for the kids.
"We anticipate that we’re going to play a very big role in that gamification of the planet."
Xavier Grifiths: You said you’ve been working in this industry for 25 years, and you seem very enthusiastic to be here showing off things to the press. What does it feel like working in the industry today; are you still excited seeing all of this new technology and great talent? What has you excited about working in the industry now?
Jess Sutton: I’ll tell you the most exciting thing about videogames in general is that with technology constantly changing, with the platforms constantly changing, there’s always something new that you’re bringing to market. I think more than ever what you can bring to market more than these real life-like kind of experiences, is you can do things that can truly change the world. We have 7 million people exercising with a Zumba game right now. We’re bringing out this project that will literally help people develop their skills, grow their stamina and just build their own personal self esteem. Now more than ever, with social games and mobile games and everything else that we’re a part of you really have the ability to make a big difference. You always hear about the concept of “gamification.” The world is being game-ified and we anticipate that we’re going to play a very big role in that gamification of the planet.
Hmm, “gamification.” Where have I heard about that before?