Nike iD, Fab-On-Demand, and Videogames

Nike in NBA2K6

Well most everyone should have seen something like this coming as Nike is no stranger to either consumer-customizable product or videogame marketing. And now they’re doing what we can soon expect others to do: forming significant first links between the virtual and the real.

According to a recent press release, Nike is integrating it’s Nike iD program with the new basketball game, NBA 2K6, from Take 2 Interactive. From the Take 2/Nike press release:

Among the most compelling elements of the partnership is the integration of the Nike iD shoe customization feature within the game functionality. In 24/7, NBA 2K6’s Streetball Mode, players dribble across North America and compete in various streetball tournaments. As players advance through the mode, a new pair of Nike Basketball shoes is awarded to the user. Each shoe earned is then added to the player’s Nike Shoe Locker. The shoes are classified based on Nike’s Flight, Force and Uptempo categories and give the user enhanced performance when worn in the game. The player must choose the best performance characteristics, such as greater speed, to defeat the opponent. Once shoes are collected in the locker, gamers can use the exclusive 24/7 Nike iD customization feature to personalize their shoes. This feature mirrors the real-world customization capabilities accessible at the Nike iD web site.

Unfortunately, as noted in the quote, the current Nike iD-NBA 2K6 integration doesn’t allow for the game shoes to be automatically sent out for fabrication; it only “mirrors” the Nike iD customization site. That functionality might, however, be in the offering next year according to a story over on ClickZ news. From their report:

That may change next year, however, according to Nike spokesperson Trisha Burns. She told ClickZ News that next year’s edition may allow gamers to order personalized shoes using the game’s interface.

The article on ClickZ goes on to say,

Development on the product integration aspect of 2K6 has taken about six months, but the two partners worked out a way to get shoe models into the game as they become available on the market. Codes will be distributed throughout the basketball season, which will unlock new Nike shoes and products. The code and assets will exist in the game’s software at launch, but only become available at the appropriate time.

I’ll be looking forward to further news on this. I’m obviously interested in how they got the shoe models into the game. I’m going to take a guess that Nike made the models in Maya since I’m aware that it’s a not uncommon app for shoe design (edit: or Alias and then pulled the native .wire files over to Maya) . It also happens to be an excellent 3D program for game models. Furthermore (and this is the kicker), it has a built-in translation from NURBs to polygons – something that would facilitate the transfer of the designs. With any luck I’ll be able to confirm this beyond now noticing that 2KSports is hiring Maya modelers and Maya tool programmers. Now as to specifically how models are being updated on the client side is another question, and I suspect that will also be an interesting bit to learn.

Most people might not be aware that the Nike iD program is actually relatively long in tooth. If I’m not mistaken, it was originally launched in 2000 or so, but to little general fanfare. It was also more tentative – the site was nice (as one would expect from Nike) but not amazing; it wasn’t compelling. But to Nike’s credit, they understood the potential and had a much more impressive re-launch (of sorts) of the whole concept, which has been received with much greater fanfare than the original.

Within product design, there are plenty of examples of companies introducing products and services ahead of their time. Unfortunately, too often those failures cause companies to pull back permanently; “Once-bitten, Twice-shy” as the saying goes. I can think of a couple companies like that (one was bitten when they attempted to use a now common injection-molding process called Gas Assist; they subsequently avoided it and fell behind the competition). One has gone under and another is on the verge of bankruptcy. Perhaps someone needs to stencil that other saying on some foreheads: “Grow or Die”. This isn’t the time to be unreasonably tentative. Kudos to Nike.

{Image source: 2KSports}

{via Clickable Culture}

4 thoughts on “Nike iD, Fab-On-Demand, and Videogames

  1. This is incredibly cool, and reminiscent of your rocket launcher post. It seems like the virtual and the real are getting closer by the day. As you know, I’m very interested in 3D printing and I’ve been thinking for a long time that I should build a business which completely democratizes the process – much like eMachineshop, but with less complexity. I’d love to create a web-based app which allows people to create objects and send them off to the printer. Perhaps this is a good time to get this underway…

  2. There are some opensource java-based 3D modelers on the net and i would venture they could be hosted apps. What’s perhaps missing however is the core understanding among consumers for how things are fabricated. It’s one thing to model a component in 3D and quite another to make something efficiently to ensure the cost is reasonable and compelling for the average person. The biggest issue tends to be that most consumers are modeling with apps that don’t have “shell” functions; so an object they create and send out to the 3D print house is usually a solid block of material (unless the service bureau does this for them) – with a pricetag to match. And the cost isn’t just material, which can be significant, it’s time. It’s faster to “trace” the slice of an outside wall then to trace a slice of an entirely solid cross-section. Since machine time is still quite costly, that fee can also balloon quickly.

    If you can resolve that issue, you might have the makings of something that a large number of consumers might want to try. But I would most definitely be starting something now. The buzz around personal fabrication is growing fast.

  3. eMachineshop has a downloadable app which automatically calculates the price as you design your object, so this would be a good functionality to have. What I’d like to achieve with this project is to make building physical items as easy as designing your own t-shirt on cafepress – designers could even open shops where they sell their designs. Unfortunately, eMachineshop seems to use a proprietary file format, so it’s not as easy as simply sending a standard file to them (however, it does seem that you can import Autocad file into their software, so maybe we could automate this process, or simply find another printer).

    I’ve also seen a lot of innovation in Second Life (in fact, one of the reasons I started using SL was to further this fabbing project – the other was to see how virtual economies develop over time). So it would be truly amazing if these highly creative people could see their designs made into solid objects. But there are problems, too – scalability is hard when you’re shipping hundreds of custom objects (I think it’s clear that demand would outpace supply if you could truly democratize personal fabrication) and it’s a challenge to bridge the gap between creative, non-technical users and these highly complex machines.

    I’d love to talk about these concepts some more – are you going to be in SL over the weekend?

  4. I recall eMachineshop doing a few things that restricted users to their service. Whether that’s still true I’m unsure.

    As for “shipping hundreds”, I don’t think that’s necessary or even desirable; high volume usually goes hand-in-hand with a large upfront investment. There are plenty of emerging niche markets that don’t require hundreds. And some (like designer toys) can sell in very limited batches. They simply sell at higher prices to cover the cost of the higher production costs.

    I’ll keep an eye out for you this weekend.

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