An In-Depth Look at Zumba Fitness Core @ E3 2012
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 26th Jun 2012
In the interest of full transparency we should point out that your Gaming Update reporter uses a wheelchair as a substitute for legs due to a severe spinal cord injury and so they are not the average target audience and gamer for this particular game and exercise program. Now having said that, and again in the interest of full transparency we would also point out that games like Zumba Fitness are why we keep a supply of Interns handy in the bullpen at GU :) Well, Interns and significant others, but more on that in a bit...
If you are not familiar with it, the Zumba Fitness game series is a series of video games that were developed by Pipeworks Software and published by Majesco Entertainment that are based upon the Zumba exercise program and fitness workout -- which is itself a specialized group fitness program (called Zumba) that was purpose-designed to be paired with music by Colombian dancer and choreographer Alberto "Beto" Perez during the 1990's that, thanks to the the advent of motion-controller and motion-sensing controller technology in modern console video games, made the inevitable leap to gaming systems in a match-up that offers a perfect example of when an idea and technology simply mesh. Call it one of the rare Man > Moment > Machines events if you will...
Traditionally the Zumba program includes a combination of dance and aerobic elements, and its inherent choreography incorporates the music and rhythm of hip-hop, salsa, samba, soca, mambo, and meringue -- to name just a few -- as well as flowing and natural sorts of martial arts such as Capoeira, Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, and Savate (to name just a few) with elements of belly dance moves and colorful Indian dance styles like Bhangra, Giddha, Dang Lila, and Garba (also to name just a few) that have been made famous and widely shared through the efforts of Bollywood.
Intermixed with these are standard exercises like squats, lunges, and muscle-toning fat-burning repetitive exercise that, when used as part of a regular -- and more importantly consistent -- exercise program, and combined with a healthy diet, maintains a very high rate of success in both helping to lose weight and to keep it off, while at the same time toning the body into a thing of beauty.
Considering that every day all over the world an estimated 12 million people practice Zumba in organized and scheduled classes at more than 110,000 locations in over 125 countries -- and those are conservative figures mind you -- when you factor in that since 2010 a countless number of gamers all over the world participate in Zumba in their homes, and those estimates do not even begin to include the Zumba routines sold on DVD, well, what you have is a major exercise movement!
An enthusiastic demo of Zumba Fitness Core by one of the Zumba Booth Babes at E3 2012...
As far as the question of which gamers, well, you can pretty much consider that to be potentially all gamers, since there are versions of the game/app for the Nintendo Wii (utilizing the included "Zumba Belt" in which the Wii 'Mote is inserted into on the right hip), a similar belt-based scheme for Sony's PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move, and of course Zumba for Microsoft's Xbox 360 (which has the only true motion-sensing controller tech in modern console gaming) which thanks to its Kinect motion-sensing controller, your dance and exercise moves are monitored by the game using Kinect camera and position-sensing technology.
Several versions of the Zumba program exist, some of which focus on different targeted areas of the body -- with the following versions currently available including:
-- Zumba Fitness (2010) Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3
-- Zumba Fitness: Join the Party (2010/2011) Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3
-- Zumba Fitness 2 (2011/2012) Xbox 360, Wii
-- Zumba Fitness Rush (2012) Xbox 360 + Kinect
-- Zumba Fitness Core (2012) Xbox 360 + Kinect, Wii
The game supports up to four players on Wii and PlayStation Move, and up to two players on Kinect locally, with support for up to eight players online on PlayStation Move and Kinect, though in recent years a customized version of group Zumba has taken shape that has one or two "leaders" following the moves on the TV and their preferred game console, while the "students" in their "class" in turn follow the Zumba moves they are demonstrating.
Zumba Core @ E3 2012
The presentation of Zumba Fitness Core at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo garnered quite a bit of attention from practically every corner of the games journalism world, with G4TV's broadcast personality Sara Underwood participating in a preview of the game for her network, her coverage of the app helping to highlight the fact that Zumba Fitness Core -- like its name implies -- was created to assist fans of the exercise program with targeting their core body elements, with the primary function of this new focused app intended to permit gamers to burn off specifically targeted amounts in excess of 1,000 calories or more -- with Underwood commenting that the new Zumba app was hard but fun.
Among the staff at the Majesco booth showing off the new Zumba app were certified Zumba instructors who were present to help and encourage attendees to work out their abs with Zumba Fitness Core, which is officially the third installment in the popular dance fitness craze while technically the 5th branded title.
On our visit to the exhibit space one of the Zumba instructors pointed out to us that when Zumba Fitness Core is combined with Zumba Fitness 2 and Zumba Fitness Rush -- the idea being to rotate among the titles, for example using the Core version on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a 20 minute routine, and substituting Zumba 2 on Tuesdays and Rush on Thursdays, the gamer (or their group) effectively targets all of the primary areas, and burns a predicable amount of calories in the process. In fact according to them I was not the odd-man-out that I thought I was...
"Even from a seated position in your wheelchair or on the floor the moves in Zumba can be adapted to fit your capabilities," she pointed out, adding that while "you may not be able to follow the program in its entirety there is no reason why you cannot use it for upper-body conditioning and to burn calories!" So what do you know?! Zumba doesn't discriminate between the able bodied and the disabled body!
As we received our official briefing from the Majesco Rep we learned that the process of creating this newest entry in the Zumba series included enlisting the aid of the Zumba community, who assisted them in the process of researching the best features to include in the new version -- in fact some of the more famous Zumba instructors like Gina Grant and Zumba creator Alberto Perez himself participated, lending their special skills in order to help choreograph the new routines as well as star in the game itself.
A video demonstrating the basic Zumba moves that provides gamers with an in-depth view of Zumba mechanics and game play as they are typically experienced in game play...
Using motion capture technology for all of the characters in the game including the background dancers as well as the instructors for each routine, the developer claims to have locked down as realistic a take on the instantly recognizable exercise routines as can be had with the current tech. The Majesco Rep says that the company is testing the game with a wide range of body types and shapes, with an eye towards obtaining repeatable results, and to facilitate the game recognizing body movements no matter what body type and shape you happen to possess.
Fitting the Moves to the Mood
Zumba is more than simply monkey-see -- monkey-do, but includes a formal set of moves much like most dances are made up of, and as a result the game version is structured with a tutorial mode -- call it the beginner class -- whose aim is to teach the participants the basic Zumba moves, and the games themselves feature fully-customizable controls so that players can speed up or slow down each routine in order to make learning them easier.
"The idea is to make exercise so much fun that you forget you are actually exercising!" our host explained, and based upon the smiles on the faces of the attendees sampling what the game has to offer we can believe that!
Zumba Fitness Core features 45 different Zumba routines that are categorized based upon the intensity (low, medium or high) of each different skill level, and includes over 30 basic styles of dance ranging from Ballet and Disco to something called Celtic Bluegrass and Polynesian. Structured with two primary modes -- either a full class and routine or single-song routines -- each session can be pre-set for 20, 40, or 60 minutes, and it seems that based upon the variety of music there is something there for everyone.
At the opening of this in-depth look I mentioned my Intern -- and really it would be completely unfair to claim that the primary reason that we bring Interns along with us for major events like E3 is to do the things we don't want to do (or in my case cannot do) in the process of evaluating the different games that are on display and being actively promoted...
The reality is that the Interns are present because this is a learning experience for them, in which they obtain valuable experience like how to evaluate demo's and briefings and then, a few hours later, sit down and bang-out 1400 words to describe what they learned in order to share the lessons with their audience -- which in this case is you!
Truth be told, providing guidance and an education in the finer points of the games journalism beat, and how to best handle this sort of experience really is what they are there for, but if we can make them do the things we don't want to (or cannot) do why then hey! It builds character! It is part of the learning experience! It's for their own good! We're just saying...
One aspect of Zumba that is not part of the official documentation and that you will not find in the printed matter on the back of the game case is the fact that observing Zumba routines being performed is actually rather sexy -- and when they are being performed by your significant other, well, they can easily lead to an enthusiastic invitation to the sharing of a shower and mutual washing of backs -- all in the interest of water preservation and the convenience don't you see?
In the end we found Zumba Fitness Core to be as impressive and effective as the other games in the Zumba series, and we should probably mention that it is scheduled for its official release in October of this year.
Created specifically to deliver the tight and toned abs that women crave, Zumba Fitness Core has a manufacturers suggested retail price of just $39.99 for the Wii version, which includes the Zumba Fitness Belt into which the motion-sensing controllers are inserted, and $49.99 for the Xbox 360 + Kinect version, not including tax and some sexy workout outfits of course...