A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

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Nintendo Amiibo

amiibo_img02_E3Amiibo is a line of RFID-equipped toys to be used with Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS consoles. The toys can be scanned by supported Nintendo games and each toy typically yields some kind of special functionalities for the matching character in the game.

Amiibo toys – officially “amiibo”, with lower case – are equipped with RFID sensors placed in the base of the toy, and can be read by the NFC reader within the Wii U gamepad and New Nintendo 3DS. The toy line consists of popular Nintendo characters such as Mario, Link and Donkey Kong while also introducing lesser known characters such as Marth from the Fire Emblem series and King Dedede from the Kirby series. The toys are compatible with various Nintendo games and open different kinds of functionalities in each game. The latest Super Smash Bros games (Wii U, 3DS, 2014), for example, allow the user to level up corresponding in-game characters, teach them new abilities and save their progress in the figurines. In Hyrule Warriors (2014) a Link figurine can be used to unlock special items. In Mario Kart 8, figurines are used to unlock additional outfits for player’s Mii characters. Like Nintendo’s earlier RFID toys, the Pokémon Rumble U toy line, the Amiibo toys draw direct comparisons to similar “toys-to-life” games, such as Disney Infinity and Skylanders.

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Pokémon Rumble U

Pokemon Rumble UPokémon Rumble U is an arena-fighting game for the Nintendo Wii U. While players collect Pokémon and fight waves of enemies, the gameplay can be enhanced by buying physical figurines which are able to enhance the game via the NFC reader in the Wii U controller.

A downloadable title from Nintendo eShop, the gameplay in Pokémon Rumble U consists of fighting waves of enemies using the Pokémon, while each stage ends with a larger boss battle. The art style presents the Pokémon as “toy versions” of themselves and all creatures from the five first generations of the main line of the series are available to collect. The gameplay can feature up to one hundred Pokémon and up to four players at the same time.

Accompanying the game is a toy line of Pokémon figurines (£3.99 apiece) that can be purchased in blind bags. Figurines include NFC chips and consequently are compatible with the Wii U gamepad that includes an NFC reader. By placing the Pokémon figurine on it players are able to upgrade the abilities of the corresponding character in the game and buy new skills for it.

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Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure

skylandersSkylanders (2011) is a fusion of a digital game and a toy line. Skylander toys, equipped with RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips, are placed on a “Portal of Power” peripheral which instantly activates a matching virtual character in the game.

Published by Activision and developed by Toys for Bob, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure features 32 fantasy characters ranging from skeletons to tree men. A starter pack for Skylanders includes the game (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, 3DS), three starter toy characters, and a special “portal of power”. As a key feature, the toy characters are equipped with RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips and placing them on the portal of power instantly activates a matching virtual character in the game. The feeling of actually transporting the character in the game is strengthened by the toys’ ability to save the player progress within itself.

Ignoring specific platforms, players can continue their game campaign on any of the supported consoles. Each character belongs to a class (one of 8) and has varying levels of specific attributes, giving each toy/character unique characteristics within game play. To conquer all the game locations, player needs most of the characters. New characters can be bought separately or in three-a-pack combos.