Friday, August 06, 2010

Ubisoft is Becoming Reckless - Just Dance Kids

Hmm...I don't think this is a good idea. In fact, it's downright reckless:

Ubisoft on Friday announced Just Dance Kids, a spin-off of the multi-million selling Wii music and rhythm game Just Dance that features kid pop songs, due in November this year.

The announcement of Just Dance Kids comes after the June announcement of Just Dance 2, due this fall for Nintendo Wii. Just Dance Kids will feature over 40 dances created by professional choreographers and led by real kids.

Ubisoft U.S. director of marketing Adam Novickas said the upcoming kid title will be "a great way for the family to interact together and learn new dance routines, in addition to providing a great form of exercise." The game's soundtrack will include "Holiday,"Naturally" and "One Time."

The game industry has a terrible habit of killing the golden goose with far too many titles, that are far too alike, in far too short a time. Just ask Harmonix about the collapse of Guitar Hero/Rock Band, or third-party publishers about the collapse of their "casual" games on Wii. As soon as a new hit game emerges, publishers pounce on it and crush the market to death. And then they sit back, puzzled, once the market has been driven off.

Ubisoft's bosses need to get this through their thick heads: There ain't no such thing as "Casual Gamers." The Wii's Expanded Audience are not fools or simpletons; they are, in fact, extremely cautious and skeptical consumers. They are also very hostile to video game sequels. I don't know why the game industry can't figure this out.

Shawn White Snowboarding: Road Trip became a hit game on the Wii; the sequel crashed and burned. Boom Blox was a hit game; the sequel crashed and burned. We Cheer was a hit game; the sequel crashed and burned. Even yearly sports games are no immune from this fate; compare last year's Tiger Woods '10 to this year's edition.

Have you noticed how slowly Dance on Broadway has caught on among the fans? This game didn't explode out of the gate at all. Only now has it moved to the top of the UK charts, and it has yet to catch fire here in America. Heck, even I haven't bought the game yet. THAT is how skeptical by nature we are. Looking at the wreckage third-parties have dumped on the Wii, can you blame us? Among Just Dance fans, there is a great demand for the sequel, but this does not turn consumers into mindless drones. We will not settle for Malibu Stacy in a new hat.

Just Dance is one of the Wii's defining titles. It represents the new generation of music games, thanks to its motion controls. It presents itself as nothing more than a good time, an evening of laughs with family and friends. This makes it a milestone in the paradigm of Social Games. It has one foot in classic arcade games, and the other foot in iPod commercials. Oh, and boys? This game is a girlfriend magnet.

I honestly don't know if Ubisoft understands why Just Dance sells or what makes it great. I think they only see sales numbers, and figure that, well, if it takes six hours to cook a roast at 100 degrees, then cooking the roast for one hour at 600 degrees should work, too. And so we see three Just Dance-inspired titles in the span of six months - Dance on Broadway, Just Dance Kids, and Michael Jackson.

I do think the French development team gets it, and they are carefully constructing a potentially landmark video game in Just Dance 2. Ubisoft should carefully cultivate this sequel as their star title, not flood the market with copycat titles. Heck, I wouldn't even release the Michael Jackson game this year, but very carefully let it marinate and cook until next year. As for "Just Dance Kids," I wouldn't release this game at all. I honestly don't see the point.

If Ubisoft isn't careful, they're going to turn away the Just Dance fans. Meanwhile, Harmonix and Konami are waiting in the wings, ready to pounce.

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