K is for Kinect

Double Fine continually confound expectations.

They also evoke a level of fandom close to worship. Tim Schafer‘s past is well documented elsewhere, this post considers where Double Fine are now in February 2011. As it turns out they are riding high after dropping Costume Quest and more recently Stacking. Double Fine are niche. Costume Quest was a lite-turnbased-RPG released on Halloween; Stacking was a game based on waddling Russian Dolls. Both downloads which caused the online fanboys to swoon with delight and born from what Schafer described as an “Amnesia Fortnight”. Then Double Fine announced Once Upon A Monster, a Kinect game featuring Elmo and Cookie Monster. For anyone else this could have been a disaster for Double Fine it was entirely expected. Listening to Schafer it sounds like this was the game they set the studio up to create:

Sesame Street had a profound effect on me, and many members of the Double Fine team, when we were children. So did video games.

Why wouldn’t Double Fine make a Sesame Street game? Who else is there? It feels like the perfect match, intuitive and shrewd on the part of Warner Brothers. Surprisingly, it raises a valid question as Nathan Martz (project lead) comments:

It’s interesting if you read some of the original interviews when Sesame Street was going on the air – between the chairman of the FCC, [Sesame Street creator Jim] Henson and the educational founders whose general feeling at the time was that television was going in a bad direction – that most of what was on TV was not very enriching … Frankly, I feel kind of the same way about video games right now, that we’re not nearly as creatively broad as we could be

Creatively broad is the mantra Double Fine live by, and Martz comment is entirely valid. However it would be naive to believe that the game could steer video gaming away from its current course. More interestingly it opens a new product category on the Xbox 360:  The Interactive Story Book. It’s a genre that has already seen considerable success on iOS and LeapPad. The iMom has been rising in profile across the life-cycle of the  iPhone and iPad to become a lucrative and attractive consumer. In 2009 Greystripe said iPhone Moms accounted for 29.5% of iPhone users in the US. Intuitive interfaces allied with compelling content can turn them into digital consumers. Once upon A Monster is squarely aimed at the new Xbox 360 audience the Kinect Moms.Thing is, it’s also aimed at me. A core game with two young daughters. All three of us have a love for Sesame Street.

Once Upon A Monster has the rare opportunity to do what Batman: Arkham Asylum did for Superhero games. Legitimise a category. Double Fine it’s over to you.


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