Sunday, August 2, 2015

When Games and Toys Collide

This is it—the era when toys really do come to life. No, it’s nothing like Woody and Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story; they’re not going to come bursting through your door any second. They can, however, burst through your TV screen—that’s what Disney Infinity can do. Yes, your actual physical action figures can truly come to life on screen via your video games. The technology behind Near Field Communication or NFC used wireless connectivity to enable data transfer over short distances, which means your toys and your video games can talk.

It’s nothing at all creepy. On the contrary, it’s absolutely amazing, and Nintendo, Activision, Disney, and Lego all seem to think so. If you’re not convinced yet that this is the future of gaming right here, let’s take a look at what Amiibo, Skylanders, Disney infinity, and Lego Dimensions have to offer.

Activision’s Skylanders

Activision was actually the first to explore the ground-breaking NFC technology with Skylanders. Using action figures embedded with NFC chips, the game has scanner bases so that characters can be unlocked inside the video game itself. While the Skylanders series is indeed very popular, it’s hard to market the toys to adults because they might not be as recognizable as their competitors’ characters. For kids who love to collect in order to catch them all ala-Pokemon style, Skylanders is a great hit. There are more than three hundred characters to collect after all, which makes it really addicting. Also, Skylanders has an exciting feature that introduces trap crystals. Players can use these to capture the enemies that they have defeated and add them up to their very own roster of characters. With unique playabilities like that, the burning itch to collect all of them will definitely get you for sure.

Disney Infinity

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Is there really anything that Disney can’t do? The world’s most beloved characters are all here for all ages to play and enjoy. They’ve got figures from Toy Story, Cars, Phineas and Ferb, Marvel’s Avengers, and even Star Wars. There are classics, too, like Donald Duck, Aladdin, Maleficent, and of course, Elsa and Anna from Frozen. The starter pack includes characters from Monsters University, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Incredibles. They also includes each character’s playset. These playsets are pre-built worlds with corresponding missions that players need to accomplish in order to finish the game. What makes Disney Infinity unique is the concept of the Toy Box. The Toy Box is an open world where players are given the power to create their own “playsets” per se. The creativity and the imagination of users play a huge role in designing Toy Boxes, because you can pretty much place anything in them and have your own roster of characters make their way through your carefully crafted world. This also sets replayability to an almost infinite number of times.

Nintendo’s Amiibo

Image Source: Gamespot
"We want to be different. We want to create innovation and Amiibo is a perfect example," says Nintendo’s Scott Moffitt. “We didn't just mimic what's been done before with Skylanders and Infinity; we are bringing out a whole new idea in this toys-to-life gaming segment." Aside from the fact that players can see their favorite characters like Mario, Pikachu, Link, Donkey Kong, Mega Man, Sonic, and Samus come to life, Amiibo allows complete compatibility with different games and various franchises. Players can use their characters within Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Mario Party 10, Mario Kart 8, and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker to name a few. This is the key difference that sets Nintendo’s Amiibo apart from Skylanders and Infinity, which both require particular platforms in order to be played. "It makes ours a great value as parents don't have to buy a starter kit. I don't know how many of those portals people are going to want underneath their TV, if seven different gaming companies come with their own toys-to-life offering. Maybe it's better if we standardize and there's one portal and we hope the GamePad could be that. We're already the destination of choice to play those games. Maybe everyone can align on using the NFC in the GamePad," Moffitt concludes.

Lego Dimensions
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Of course, Lego cannot be outdone. The newest challenger comes into the NFC fray by offering something the other three companies should be wary of—playable Lego figures. Who else has enough licenses and franchise under its belt to go up against the previous giants of NFC games? Lego has an impressive lineup of characters from The Lego Movie, DC Comics, Ninjago, The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, and yes, even Back to the Future. These are incredible enough as they are—and Lego isn’t stopping there. "Lego Dimensions is unlike anything that we have ever done. It further extends the Lego play experience into the digital world with all of the characters, humor, and action of Lego videogames now combined with the fun of Lego minifigure and model building," the Vice President of Digital Games for the Lego Group Niels Jørgensen says. And yes, minifigure and model building are all part of the appeal.

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A press release from Lego also states that "One Lego Toy Pad, Lego Gateway, and the videogame found in the initial Starter Pack will offer endless opportunities to customize a player's experience for years to come. Future expansion pack purchases will continue to work with the Starter Pack, even in the fall of next year. No compatibility chart necessary.” This is something that has always been a problem with competitors like Disney Infinity, where old and new versions are non-compatible. To top it off, the Lego figures for Lego Dimensions are completely compatible with ordinary Lego sets. Just like regular Lego bricks, they connect with each other. If the video gamers won’t be compelled to buy the game, then the regular Lego collectors surely will.

Now that we’ve gone through a quick rundown of the major NFC players in the market today, have you picked your favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

*This article was first seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles HERE.

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