February 26, 2024

Family fun is covered, and these games are all pretty active, but the Nex Playground also offers actual workouts with NexGym Fitness. I like the visual style here, with an instructor appearing to demo each exercise, and the camera tracks your form fairly well, though you have to be careful to stand in the correct setup pose before the exercise begins. But the sets on offer are too limited, many require weights, and the workouts are repetitive. There’s potential here, but much like my fitness, the app needs more work.

Nex’s CEO and cofounder, David Lee, says we can expect seasonal content drops and at least another 20 titles this year. He says games will be available à la carte in early 2024 for folks who don’t want yet another subscription, but there’s no word on pricing yet. The title that jumps out at me from the “coming soon” list is Tennis, which promises you can play with your personal racket.

Gimmicky Gaming

Photograph: Simon Hill

It’s the accessibility and affordability of AI chips capable of motion tracking that made the Nex Playground possible, according to Lee. As these chips roll into TVs, set-top boxes, and streaming devices, all you need to enable games like this is a camera. Nex is already offering some of its games on Sky Live, and they will likely pop up on smart TVs with cameras that run Android TV soon.

As fun as the Nex Playground is, I’d sooner buy the games for an existing device than spring for another console that needs a spot on the media console. Add the subscription cost and it feels expensive for what you get. You are perilously close to what you’d pay for an Xbox Series S or Nintendo Switch, but both of those consoles are far more versatile. If you’re keen on this kind of gaming, you could also look at dusting off your Nintendo Wii or buying an Xbox Kinect.

The technology for motion tracking has advanced, and it’s nice to be able to play games without a wearable, a Wii-mote, or some other controller. But the Nex Playground is so limited that it’s going to be a tough sell for most folks. With games based around moving or exercising in virtual reality now, the simple graphics of the Nex feel like a throwback.

Sure, it’s fun for the first couple of weeks and worth firing up when you have guests over, but will it keep you coming back for more? The local multiplayer is where it shines, and it’s a nice way to get the family playing together, but I don’t feel much pull to play it on my own. Ultimately, the Nex Playground is accessible, sociable, and active, but with such a shallow pool of content, I can see it gathering dust when the novelty wears off.