The idea behind the Infinity Game Table is pretty simple: Play any board game you want -- but the games are digital on a large touchscreen table. No pieces to set up, no cards to shuffle and no one has to be the banker. Just gather the family around and dive in. And the family doesn't have to be in the same home. Table owners can play with each other online.
I got an exclusive chance to check out an early prototype of the system, which you can see in the video embedded above. The company behind it is Arcade1Up, which you may know for itsof cabinets. Now the team is tinkering with tabletop games, building a digital library of touchscreen versions, starting with Hasbro's most popular titles.
Since this year'sis all digital, the team offered me the opportunity to play its 24-inch screen prototype at my home for a few days.
The Infinity Game Table found success as a Kickstarter campaign, with backers pledging more than $1 million in support. The first units are expected to start shipping to early supporters by March, and the retail price starts at $600 -- about the cost of a new high-end iPad.
I got a kick out of how fast my husband and I could jump into a game of Monopoly, and watched the board come to life when little tokens hopped around the board. Digital dice rolls would sometimes still knock over the little homes and hotels on our property. And police sirens wailed when someone was sent to jail -- putting your little token behind bars.
Sometimes the key feature of a board game is the feel of the physical game elements. There's the clicky spin of the wheel in The Game of Life, the bounce of the bubble in Pop-o-Matic Trouble, or the buzz in Operation. So how does that translate digitally?
You're only touching an image of the bubble for Trouble, but the entire table does vibrate with each press. And pegs animate as they fly across the game's path.
And in Operation, the game designers turned the tweezer challenge into a maze, dragging your finger across the screen. If you hit the edge, the table rumbles and the patient's heartbeat picks up, building anxiety for your next try.
Tapping a hippo's bum isn't the same as slamming one and seeing balls fly in Hungry Hungry Hippos. So it doesn't always replace the actual board game's appeal for the kiddie titles. But digital versions can open up new ways to play -- not to mention make saving a game easy when you want to pick it up again later.
The table's offerings go beyond Hasbro games. The company is also working on titles such as Pandemic and Ticket to Ride, and the table has plenty of card games and table-top staples like checkers and chess. Arcade1Up wants to open it up to developers to build new game concepts. What if a game's board could change as you play? Or interact with how a player touches the board?
The potential here is intriguing. You're still sitting across the table, playing friends and family face-to-face, but a screen could be used to get people playing in new ways. The possibilities really depend on what developers bring to the table.