NBA Baller Beats drops 9/11/12: Kenny the Jet Smith and Majesco CEO Jesse Sutton talk about the one of a kind game with TSF
Drops September 11th 2012
Yeah, the time is now. NBA Baller Beats is about to rock the block, the ‘burbs, the board room and maybe even the gym/training facility. You dribble a basketball to interact with the game to the sound of beats. You might have thought of this but shook it off as something just not possible with the gaming technology available. Dribbling an official NBA ball while working on a handle to break all kinds of lower extremities with on the court. Think about it, instead of lounging playing Madden and eating up all the grub, you can actually have more fun with your boys/girls while working out. What about all the times you’ve told your kids to work on that left? Now you won’t have to and for you and the wife, what can be better than a fun and challenging couples workout? NBA Baller Beats will be available in stores exclusively on Kinect™ for Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft on September 11, 2012. Dig this interview with the two time NBA champion and current TNT NBA analyst Kenny Smith the game spokesman, and CEO Jesse Sutton of Majesco Entertainment, the company behind the game that is surely to explode and create a new sports gaming genre, NBA Baller Beats.
Jesse Sutton: “A few years ago, we were approached by someone with a really cool idea to really take a game like Dance Dance Revolution and turn it into a basketball training tool with a lot of cool music attached to it. It really wasn’t until the Kinect technology came out that it really made it practical to invent this experience. The hardest thing to do is to have the Kinect recognize something outside of your own skeleton…which we technologically pulled off for the first time in the history of that technology by adding a ball to its recognition capacity. So now it recognizes a basketball as you’re dribbling separate from your body. We’re all passionate basketball fans – and players for that matter – so the rest is history.”
Michael Tillery: Using an actually NBA rock – Spalding. What was the process of that development and can women or kids use a smaller ball?
Jesse Sutton: “Yes. The game is going to come packaged with a basketball. An official Spalding NBA basketball. but it really can be used with any ball for that matter. Any color except pure black. Junior to standard size is all good.”
MT: How are current NBA players and teams used?
JS: “Really the way that it works is we built the game for players to really enjoy the experience of dribbling to a beat and having all the fun from that perspective. The NBA brand and teams and all the players are utilized. You can play as your own team. They have a whole bunch of collectible items to fill your locker room with or to fill up your main game play page.”
MT: Recommendations on playing surface – hardwood, carpet – does it matter?
JS: “Doesn’t matter. Shag carpet is gonna be tough. Basketballs bounce on every (surface) – as long as it’s not really really thick, you’re good. In the event that someone happens to live on a top floor somewhere or has shag carpet we’re going to be directing people through our website – once the game comes out – to a softer ball. You’ll lose the authenticity of a basketball but you won’t lose the excitement of having a fun game experience”
MT: Kenny what is your role in this, and as someone having a handle, how much of a challenge was this game for a former NBA point guard?
Kenny Smith: (He laughs) “It’s funny because it kind of changed from the initial process. Jesse came to me and said hey, they’re having this idea. We want you to see it and see where you want to fit in – from voicing it over to whatever it might be. The first five minutes into the game, I knew I was going to dive head first into the pool. I stopped and said Jesse, I’ve been doing a lecture for 20 years for basketball camps. My way to get the attention of the kids was to take a basketball and I’d dribble it to a beat and have the kids rap to the beat I dribbled it to. This is exactly what I’ve been doing in terms of lecturing in a basketball game. The difficulty is – depending on your skill level – I’ve been an NBA player. I’m outta the league whatever but my handles are still tight. I can’t do the top baller lever right now. Rookie I’m pretty good at. Pro? I’m OK. Baller? I’m still working on it. Me and my son were playing the game the other day. Both shirts off. Sweating and having a good time. My daughter came in. We put it back on rookie and she’s laughing and joking. It was Dance Dance Revolution with a basketball. I had never seen anything like it. I understood the concept. I saw that my daughter could play it, to my son who is aspiring to be a Division 1 basketball player, to an NBA pro. I saw the ramifications. We had a great showing. I did a presentation at the NBA Finals (also at the E-3 tech conference in LA. The only other time it’s been presented to the media per Jeff Pomeroy) and we had it with all the media outlets that were down there. We had a waitress play and then we had Chris Webber play. Stephen A. Smith played. Everyone wanted to be involved and wanted to play it. We had an eight year old kid come do it because we know that’s our audience as well and had a great time.”
MT: You spoke of the training aspect. Do you think this technology can be utilized to teach kids how to dribble a ball?
KS: “It definitely will teach you how to dribble a basketball but the other part of it is like I can’t dance, but I play Dance Dance Revolution. The music aspect to me takes it to another level. It takes it to another level because now you have the hottest songs, people dancing to them – dribbling to them. Just so many different components.”
MT: Have you played it with Chuck, Shaq and even Ernie on the big screen (Inside the NBA set)?
KS: “Oh my God. You know I waited for that right? I cannot wait for next season to put that on the big screen and go against Shaq, or go against Chuck.”
MT: Players in the Finals right now. Who rocks this and who has serious difficulty?
KS: “Honestly, you can’t just walk on this and go straight to baller. There’s nobody. I don’t care. Chris Paul is not going to be able to just walk on and go straight to baller because there’s a rhythm and a science to it that you have to kinda figure out. Those guys will eventually be able to do it as a workout. Like I’m going to work on my hands for the day, but at the same token I said the waitress could not wait to get on it. She was like “I wanna play”. So, like I said, it’s like Dance Dance Revolution and the Michael Jackson dance game. I’m not a dancer but I play Dance Dance Revolution. That’s actually more fun for people who don’t know how to play and actually participate in it.”
MT: What are your thoughts on the Finals?
KS: “Oh I think it’s going the way it’s expected to. I think that Chris Bosh is the difference. With him being healthy is going to be the difference between Miami winning it or not. He brings so much to the table offensively and defensively for LeBron and for D-Wade that they don’t bring to each other. They pick and roll with him. They pick and pop with him. To me when they play together, they just let each other rest unless it’s a fast break but in a half court offense, they play off of Chris Bosh much more than they play off each other.”
MT: Does Westbrook get a bad rap?
KS: “No he doesn’t get a bad rap because he gets the credit when it happens or isn’t and he’s gonna get the negative when it doesn’t. That’s the job of the point guard. He’s learning to play the point. He’s never been a point until he got to the NBA. Third year in the league and he’s learning how to be a point guard and then we’ll give him some NBA Ballers Beats and we’ll get his handle a little tighter and he’ll be fine (we all laugh).”
MT: Finals prediction?
KS: “My choice at the beginning was Miami, but that was with the thing of Chris Bosh being healthy. I say he’s 80% so that kinda throws me off. I’m going with Oklahoma City in 6 or 7.
MT: Jesse Guitar Hero comes to mind but I see Majesco has taken advantage of the burgeoning interactive game market for a while. Could you summarize that company direction?
JS: “Not only am I the CEO but I’m the co-founder of the company from 25 years ago. So we’ve been making games forever. We’ve been very active in the trend of active gaming. Most recently we’ve put out the #2 fitness game of all time with Zumba. We went to school on Zumba and learned a lot. What consumers like and what it is that we can bring to NBA Baller Beats from that experience. First and foremost was the fact that not everybody goes to a Zumba class because they are a little bit concerned with their ability to fit in. The same thing on a basketball court. Not every kid gets on a basketball court because they are a little bit nervous about fitting in because he/she doesn’t have a good handle. A handle has the ability to really hide other issues and make you fit in better on the basketball court. So it helps a person’s social experience if they can go and really teach themselves how to have a good handle without realizing they’re learning their fun environment. They come back to their playground or school yard or school gym and really be able to show off his/her new abilities.
MT: What is going to make game players play this game over whatever is out there?
Kenny Smith: “You’ve got the hottest songs. You’ve got basketball which is a world wide sport and you have something you can be a part of without having baller skills for. You learn one skill of the game and if you’re messing up, it’s actually fun. Where in a game, if you’re messing up, you’re on a team. I don’t want you on my team and I’m not picking you. But in the game, you are bouncing to the beat and the bass line from the hottest songs.”
MT: Covering games, I’m nodding my head in press row during warmups. Does a player get something out of that pregame track-list and also during the game?
KS: “Without question. I bet if you ask Michael Jordan right now what he listened to before he played every game I bet right now he can tell you what he listened to before every game. You ask Kobe Bryant. You ask LeBron James (I did). You’ll see LeBron bouncing to a Jay-Z song and singing it word for word. There is a connection between music and basketball that you can’t deny. The connection is the rhythm of the game. “I was out of rhythm”, “I wasn’t in sync”. Those are musical terms. Those aren’t basketball terms. So without question, music and basketball have to be related so when the two came together, that’s why I did my lectures that way. There’s a rhythm to the game. Who likes rap music? Everybody raises their hand. I’m going to give you the rhythm that I played at and show you how you can have fun and still work on your game.”
MT: Jesse, I think players will dig the diverse list of the 15 confirmed tracks chosen and will you get the other 15 done soon?
JS: “Yes. We’ve done all 30 tracks. We just haven’t made the announcement yet. We basically are working very close with the NBA, and what we are trying to do is mimic the experience when you go to an NBA experience…the kind of music you’re likely to hear in the background during timeouts. When the team is trying to be wound up by the stadium (sound and in some cases an actual DJ). You’ll have the crazy music in the background. You’ll have heavy beats. You’ll have something that gets you pumped up while you’re playing or preparing to play or while the team is preparing to play. It’s pretty diverse. It goes all over the place. It’s classic stuff. It’s new stuff, but it’s all stuff you’ll have a real recognized ability with to be able to pick up very quickly.
The one thing that makes this game stand out from any other, Kenny’s been witness to this as well, is anytime you get in front of people and show them this game in person…and even go to another level and have them play the game…it suddenly all hits. If you’re a fan of the game, suddenly this all resonates and you can’t wait to go out and buy this game. That’s what overwhelmed us more than anything else is the sense of wow. The wow factor that people initially have when they see this game in person.”