Snowboard video games are hot right now, and one company wants to make them a bit more realistic. Accolade, which will be launching the new title Big Air this fall, plans on featuring snowboard products from fifteen different companies in the game.

“The developers of the game are big snowboarders and are into realism,” says Laddie Ervin, Accolade’s product marketing manager. “Snowboarding has a community around it. There’s art and music-more than basketball or other sports. If we only went with one manufacturer, we’d limit it and wouldn’t get the flavor of the sport.”

Right now the list includes Arbor, Joyride, Morrow, Nitro, Palmer, and Ride for boards, and Wave Rave and Westbeach for clothing. Other companies are still in negotiation, and Accolade hopes to team with ten board brands and five apparel lines total.

For the snowboard companies, having their product in the video game is a great opportunity. “It’s great exposure for the sport and for us,” says Vince Stinson, art director for Wave Rave, who’s provided line sheets and three-dimensional renderings of the company’s outfits to Accolade. “It’s something fun and new for all of us.”

Bob Klein, manager for Palmer Snowboards, says, “When it the game comes out is perfect timing for the sales season.”

The fall launch date is also a perfect time for cross promotions with the snowboard companies. “We’re working out the details, but we hope we’ll have hyperlinks from our Web site to theirs, and will be able to download a sample of the game from our site,” Klein adds.

Palmer will be making Accolade custom boards, and the video-game company plans to set up kiosks in booths at trade shows. “We want to introduce people to these snowboard companies,” says Ervin.

In addition to letting players have the opportunity to select different snowboard and apparel brands, the game offers opportunities to choose such things as country (Canada, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland, the United States, and Germany), event (halfpipe, big air, boardercross, slalom, or freeriding), time of day (including night riding in some instances), and even music.

The game will also feature up to twenty different songs from eleven bands. “Some are from major labels, and some are unsigned,” says Ervin. “The music will be upbeat punk and ska.”

Players will be able to perform approximately 40 tricks while riding. “It’s like a fighting game,” says Ervin. “It’s easy to do one trick, but the challenge is to link the tricks together.” As players get better, they will have the opportunity to compete against “boss” characters: Shaun Palmer will be the boardercross boss, and Mike Beallo the big-air boss. The company is still in negotiations with the other boss characters.

“We picked the companies from pro-rider recommendations and by looking at magazines,” says Ervin. With the licensing deals, Accolade has a standard contract to use the snowboard products in the game.

“They contacted us to get involved,” says Klein. “They’re not asking us for money and we’re not asking them for any money. They said they’re going to make it as realistic as possible-we sent them a disk with all the board graphics, and they’ll have all the specs available in the game.”

Accolade didn’t really plan on making a video game for snowboarding, but the developers of Test Drive, under contract to develop another game, told the company they wanted to create one with snowboarding. After looking at the market, the idea seemed pretty attractive to Accolade. “There have been probably more than a million units sold altogether in the snowboarding-game category,” says Ervin. “It’s one of the few sporting-goods games that’s done well worldwide.”

The company is known for developing successful franchises. Their Test Drive game is in its fifth version now. Big Air will be available for PlayStation and PCs. Accolade has trademarked the name and will have a Web site at: www.bigair.com to promote the game.