Ever since the games industry really took off and video games began to garner mainstream appeal, the volume of geek apparel designed specifically to appeal to gamers has been flowing in by the boatload. Though most of this stuff is incredibly cool, it doesn't really have much of a purpose outside of aesthetic appeal. That's where the NEX Band comes in; a wearable gaming peripheral with a very interesting twist:
Customizing how it looks will customize how it plays.
Although the project is still in its nascent stages, Mighty Cast's Adam Adelman already has some very big plans in mind for his product. The NEX Band, he explains, will be able to hook up to a mobile device, at which point it'll provide a different experience for any number of different mobile games based on what charms are currently plugged into it. Adelman envisions the NEX Band as both platform- and developer-agnostic:
"You have a lot of other bands, like the Nike FuelBand or the Jawbone Up Band, and they're pretty much locked into one application," he explains."The differentiator for us is that we have these removable, sharable mods which are different tokens that fit onto the band itself, and each one has its own unique ID."
What this basically means is that each 'charm' could be used in a game to represent a different stage, power-up, piece of equipment; or even its own entirely unique game. In short, this is a very cool idea which, if utilized properly, could very well change the face of mobile gaming. It's a change, I think, that's long overdue.
After all, it's no secret that mobile game development is currently the Wild West of the games industry. Piracy, malware, and copyright infringement all run rampant, and no one seems to know how to address any of these concerns. While the NEX Band won't solve all of these problems, it could certainly help developers where monetization is concerned.
"One easy way to explain what we do is to start with a concept like Skylanders," says Adelman. "We're not comparing ourselves to that, but obviously with Skylanders, you go and buy characters, you place them on the Portal of Power, and you see the virtual representation on the screen. That's pretty much where the engagement ends."
"We are an extension from there," he continues. "Our NEX Band can support five different game pieces at one time, but you can have as many as you want, and the cloud always knows your progress, or what your inventory is."
Each piece, when hooked up to a bracelet, has its ID uploaded to a
cloud server, which keeps track of a players' running inventory. Players can use their wristbands to send coded messages to one another, and change the way their charms are arranged for different results. Each individual charm also has its own systems in place to track such features as what games it's been used with, how many different bracelets it's been connected to; current location, and even distance traveled. These are all features which Adelman maintains could have huge implications for the mobile games market.
Mighty Cast has even implemented functionality similar to Nintendo's StreetPass.
"When you're walking past someone who is playing the same games, or who has the same console, you're able to recognize them," Adelman says. "But we can go even further. If someone is in one of your clans, your charm can start to flicker faster the closer you get."
Okay...so...how does this help mobile developers, exactly?
"We really have a razorblade type business model, where the mods have almost virtual good-like margins," Adelman continues. "I know a lot of mobile game companies right now who are struggling to
monetize online. They may have a lot of traction and a lot of players, but the freemium model is very challenging, especially for a younger demographic. So we take that into the physical world, and sell physical mods for them."
It's a promising idea, and one which already has both backing and funding from the Canadian government, which has granted Mighty Cast $1 million to develop a proof-of-concept title called The Mighty Maru; A Clash of Clans-esque game with built-in NEX Band functionality. Additionally, Mighty Cast has the full API and SDK available for any developers who want to get involved. All they need to do is contact Mighty Cast.
The NEX Band is due for release in Q4 2014, with a beta slated for May 2014.