HYBRIDEX

A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences


Digital Games and Merchandising

Minecraft Foam Sword 1Digital games have historically been surrounded with a variety of physical material, such as the game box and game store marketing material. Due to digital distribution, this materialism has shifted into collectible figurines, collector’s edition boxes and game weapon replicas.

Along with the popularization of digital distribution, many anticipated the death of the physical game disk and game retail stores. Games, however, are one of the strongest areas of entertainment brand merchandising – accordingly, many game stores have seen fit to counter diminishing game sales with various kinds of physical products that cannot be downloaded. Tellingly, Angry Birds products can be found everywhere and in all product categories. Brands popular with younger children offer for example physical, often real-size objects from games, such as the Minecraft pick-axe. It is now also a viable business plan to produce expensive axes and “chainswords” in life-size replicas from brands such as Warhammer 40K.

Further, a lot of the collector’s edition game copies come with collectible figurines, large special shaped game boxes, cloth maps, caps, art books, and so on. A Splinter Cell game even came with actual working nightvision goggles. Larger game launches aim to draw attention with a collection of “swag”: key chains, posters, and wunderbaums. Elsewhere, many Kickstarter campaigns for games offer reward tiers that promise physical objects, such as T-shirts and even retro style physical game boxes.

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VCR Games

VCR Games 1VCR games were game hybrid that used video cassettes as a part of game experience. Players might for example search for clues by watching a tape or even shoot at the screen with toy guns when special lights were blinking.

VCR games utilized the defining technology of the 1980s, the video tape, which were used to expand regular games such as board games (and eventually, toys) to new areas. Starting the genre, Clue VCR Mystery Game (1985) was the most popular VCR game and involved players solving murders with real on-screen actors. In Candy Land VCR Board Game (1986) players watched video segments to find visual clues in order to move matching cards from the board.

A unique toy-game hybrid, Captain Power and the Soldiers From the Future (1987) comprised of a TV-show – later released on video – and an interactive toy line. Special light signals from TV would activate mechanisms in the toys and even “shoot” at them, while the kids were able to shoot back at the screen to score points. Similar shooting mechanism was used also in Action Max (1987), a VCR light gun game, that resembled Nintendo’s Zapper. Some of the games, like the horror themed Nightmare (1991), got popular enough to spawn expansions, each of which came with a new video tape.


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Bin Weevils

ImageBin Weevils is an online virtual world where kids are free to move around, socialize, and build their “Bin Nests”. Bin Weevils, the cutesy insect characters, exist also as a line of toys each containing a code that can be used online to unlock “nest items”.

Bin Weevils got started as a series of Nickelodeon animation shorts revolving around Bin Weevils, cute ant-like insects. The shorts have been the basis of an online game that centers on the main characters, Tink and Clott.

Joining Bin Weevils online game is free. Some areas of the site and game features, however, are restricted to paying members, or “Bin Tycoons”, only. Players can create their own pet Bin Weevil, walk around and explore a 3D world, chat and play online games with friends, do activities, solve secret missions and decorate their homes and garden (which other players can then be invited to visit). The more online games and puzzles players complete, the more virtual money (called Mulch) they earn. Mulch is used to buy items, furniture, gadgets and gizmos for player’s “Bin Nest”.

Bin Weevils toy line includes minifigures, collectables, nest playsets, regular and talking plush toys, a trading card game and books, to name some. Most of these come with codes for redeeming content in the online game.


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Moshi Monsters

ImageMoshi Monsters is an online world of pet monsters where users customize and nurture a virtual pet monster, move around Monstro City, take daily puzzle challenges, play games, personalize their room, and communicate with other users.

Developed by Mind Candy in 2008, Moshi Monsters is primarily aimed at children aged 6–12 and has 65 million registered users worldwide. The basic version of the game is free, while a paid membership with members-only features is also available. Players choose from one of six virtual pet monsters to customize and play with, and then interact with other users in game and on the official message forums. Due to the age of the target audience, the forums are not real-time chat rooms, but rather monitored message posting facilities.

In 2008, “Moshlings”, even smaller monsters that act as pets for the original Monsters, were released. There are various methods of obtaining Moshlings, including purchasing special “seeds” from an in-game shop to attract them. Following its online success, Moshi Monsters has expanded commercially with physical products, including toys, the top selling kids’ magazine (in the UK), a Nintendo DS video game, a music album, books, membership cards, trading cards, and molding clay, to name some examples.