The TV console market is locked up. The portable gaming console is locked up. So what's next?
Board games and educational games.
And that's where these new Sifteo Cubes come in. They were first introduced as a prototype during a 2009 TED talk by David Merrill
, Sifteo's CEO.
It's a pretty cool concept: Sifteo cubes have tiny, 1.5-inch screens that can interact with each other via spatial awareness. They know when they're close to each other, to the left, right, top, or bottom. And you can load them up with games that use that new tech.
Keep on reading to learn more about them.
I haven't seen spatial awareness used so well in games since Nintendo
launched the Wii
in 2006. When I first met with Sifteo a few months ago to try out the prototype cubes, I immediately knew what to do. Moving the cubes around, shaking them, bumping them together, feels incredibly natural. It reminded me of playing with Legos as a kid, except the Legos actually play back
The games are dead simple. But that's the point. Sifteo won't replace your iPhone
DS as a gaming system. Instead they provide a fun, simple way to pass the time. It's like the new board game.
There's also huge potential for education. (My mother was a first grade teacher, so I immediately thought kids who need help with basic concepts can use the cubes to make learning easier.)
Finally, the technology behind the cubes is pretty amazing. The 1.5-inch screens are far from high-res, but the spatial awareness, accelerometers, etc. add a fun and intuitive dimension to simple games.
I think the thing that's going to hurt Sifteo the most is the price. I'm sure the cubes are pretty expensive to make, but at $149 for the starter Sifteo pack with three cubes, plus $45 for each additional cube, a lot of people are going to be turned off.
If Sifteo could get the starter pack down to $99, that would be the sweet spot.
Also, the cubes are worthless unless you're near a computer. They ship with a tiny USB dongle that plugs into the back of your computer and beams games to the cubes. If you move more than a few feet away from your computer, the cubes turn into bricks.
Games are downloaded and stored on a desktop app. There's a virtual storefront, similar to any other app store, where you can download new games to your PC. Most games cost a few bucks, but there are some decent free ones too.
I wasn't crazy how Sifteo decided to go with a "point" system for purchasing games instead of paying for them with direct cash. It's like that whole hot dog to hot dog bun packaging ratio conspiracy: You end up buying more than you need.
Should You Buy It?
I think this is something educators and those with young children should look into.
Sifteo cubes are still fun, imaginative, and open up a lot of new possibilities for gaming. It's definitely a new, green space.
If you can justify the cost (I can't) I say give them a try.