Last night we attended the second, as in not official Xbox 360 Natal Cirque De Soleil event. Our experience? A positive yet unusual one. Microsoft is smart (I know, I never thought I’d find myself saying that). The word of mouth marketing they’ll get out of these two events will prove to be a worthy investment. Below is video of our experience edited together. We didn’t stay for the entire thing (we we’re standing room only and my back started to hurt) but as you’ll see being part of the event, on the center stage, well almost center stage, made it a much more fun and entertaining experience than being seated and on the fringes.
We started by standing inline for about 45 minutes. Once we entered USC’s Gallen Center we walked through a dark hallway and then into a room filled with Xbox 360 show employees. There we were outfitted with white ponchos with plastic shoulder pads (these ended up glowing at a select part of the event). From there we entered through a hole, yes a hole in the wall where a black (as in African American family – mother, father and two kids) greeted us. This part was just weird since they weren’t just chilling on a couch in a would be living room and it was if we had gone the wrong way or invaded their home. After some awkward glances we continued on down another dark hallway and entered the main arena. There we were greeted with a room filled with mostly white ponches, security guards and Cirque De Soleil freaks (I mean that in the most positive of waya). The music was very inspirational and uplifting. Select parts of the floor were covered in a special plastic and projected with an interactive image of a small pond – this tech has been used for a few years now, but cool nonetheless.
For about 30 minutes we hung out and wondered the floor discovering small little shows that were put on by the Cirque entertainers. None of them spoke in English, and instead used a combination of body language and some made up dialect that only added to the mystery of the event.
Soon we were directed to the center of the room. The lights dimmed and the family (mother, father and son), which had been suspended by a floating couch were lowered. The kid, who carried some sort of orb, was carried from one end of the arena to the next where he interacted with the Cirque folks. From our angle, or lack there of, it was a bit difficult to see what was going on. Next an elephant appeared – a real live one – carrying another kid. The giant beast made its way through the crowd and deposited him at a set of boulders. A screen dropped from the ceiling (or perhaps it was already there) where he proceeded to play a set of games using an Xbox 360 controller. After each game the boy deposited his controlled in a small hip sack and proceeded to a higher boulder. Once he reached the third boulder the music changed and the boulder, which wasn’t a boulder at all, lit up with an Xbox 360 logo. This is when Microsoft officially introduced Kinect and the young boy begin to interact with his on screen avatar. I didn’t appear to be done in real time; it looked rehearsed. What happened next was by far the coolest part of the show.
A living room suspended in a floating box was revealed just above the last boulder. The boy climbed aboard and although we didn’t have a direct view he joined his family for a night of gaming using none other than the Kinect Xbox 360 system. Suddenly, the room in which he and his family sat began to rotate. Seconds later they were upside down and another family was sitting the right way up, and a Cirque character is walking and jumping on the celing. Crazy, huh? From there the family demo’d a handful of games including the Joy Ride game we recently heard about in addition to some sort of Star Wars game. With about 25 minutes left we dediced to leave. We wanted to beat the crowd, we we’re hungry and my back (I’m a woose) was hurting.
Final thoughts. Microsoft has a sure fire winner on their hands if the Kinect system is anything like the event they put on. It was easily one of the most entertaining video game experiences I’ve ever had and applaud whatever marketing team devised this event. We’re heading to E3 tomorrow and we’ll try to score a hands on with the Kinect system.