Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Infinity?, I doubt I will go much beyond...

In 2006, Mattel took it's second foray into videogames. No longer squaring off against the likes of Atari, or Coleco, Mattel was about to take on Playstation 3 and Xbox-360, with their new machine. And while it did not have the HD compatibility, blu-ray internals or hardcore titles Like Halo, or Final Fantasy, they did have one thing an incredible marketing strategy. Using an RFID reader, in conjuntion with a CD-Rom, Mattel's Hyperscan, would allow players to use collectable trading cards to upgrade their games with new characters, powers and other stuff. In short making the customer buy expansions for a game with a physical value. with how hot collectable card games like Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon were this thing could have been Mattel's license to print money. but underpowerd guts, horrible load times, and being placed in the toy aisle, not the electronics aisle prettymuch killed the Hyperscan's bid to put Mattel back in the console business, but perhaps it was a bit ahead of it's time. 

At least that must have been Activision's theory when they created an RFID accessory and figures with RFID tags in their bases for the kids video game Skylanders. again kids will go nuts for toys that will also enhance their gameplay. but as Activision cleverly made it an accessory for all 3 big consoles and sells PVC figures instead of cards, the idea took off like gangbusters. How gangbusters you may ask? Enough so for Disney to decide they want their own piece of that filthy filthy Skylanders cash. 

And that in a Nutshell is the premise behind Disney's Infinity. The game is actually a series of lukewarm sandbox games tied together with a minecraftesque build your own world. The Disney Infinity figures, which are stylized PVC figures possessing no articulation, and the ubiquitous RFID tag base. in short they are selling add on DLC as a physical item, and with a considerable mark up. The average "new character" is about $0.99 which is $12.00 less than the average Infinity figure. Now at first I was actually kind of O.K. with this, my daughter, who is not at the age where she plays video games, seemed to fall in love with the figurines, and as the RFID is sealed in a plastic casing I don't have a large worry about her damaging them. However a few odd things. Firstly, the game's tutorial (because that's how games work nowadays, no one has time to read a manual, so let's give them a tutorial!) goes on and on (at infinitum) about the power of imagination. it's in fact, supposed to be the central theme of the game, a bit like it is in the little big planet game series. However maybe it's the lack of the dulcet tones of Mr. Stephen Fry talking about the power of imagination, but the whole damn thing feels artificial. 

Also within the sandbox games you are forced to keep to a very specific regimen. Only characters from the incredibles can be in the incredibles game and never any others, wanna play Jack Sparrow in Monster University? Too bad. Wanna change characters mid adventure (such as from Violet to Dash in the increedibles) Nope, you play the same character, or start the entire game world over again. Both of these seem like very stifling tactics for a game that espouses the value of imagination. I can understand that Disney wants to protect it's IP, but since all of the elements and the world is all generated by Disney, we aren't going to see any objectionable content by letting Mr. Incredible use his powers in the world of the Lone Ranger, or even change characters between sessions. Sure some are going to be ill- suited for some games/ worlds, the inability to climb may really make any of the Cars characters have a tough time in the incredibles, but this is the kind of organic trial and error thing that players would enjoy, and would allow players to explore possibilities. Now much of this CAN be done in the minecrafteqsue toybox mode, however in a game about imagination and that pushes that word as much as this does it seems to be a questionable decision. Now one other thing on the physical figures, as I mentioned earlier, my daughter loves them. In fact she loves them so much she has been known to pluck the figures off the desk while being used and hide them. So imagine if your favorite game had physical components (beyond just the disk, and controler) that MUST be connected to the console to continue, and f lost you either have to start over or not play. I spent 2 hours looking all over for Mrs Incredible, while reviewing this because my daughter thought she should be set under the couch. and the power disk, still remains MIA. 

Another new thing is the game has ads, (of a sort) littered throughout the game worlds are videos to show off and extol the virtues of the other characters. This takes the game out of the realm of memorabilia into advertising to you paid for by you. they are already pushing characters for upcoming films by showing the videogame characters in promotion during the game. Considering the core game is $75 with 3 character figures and the infinity RFID reader (called the toybox), and the software. then add an additional $13.00 for each individual figure or $30.00-$35.00 for 3 packs or 2 packs with an additional "world icon", you can see how this game can start to get very costly very quickly. This is also more useful for them to pass off than the deluge of cheaply made video games based on new movies, Case in point, why make a Lone Ranger video game that few will play considering the potential unpopularity of the film, but if you already spent for infinity and are a completist, you will spend $35.00 for the Lone Ranger character pack and play the lone ranger missions for the bonuses they may give to the infinity experience as a whole? This is the future of disney interactive, and I can see them pulling in Star Wars and Marvel this way as well, Why not? There is already some ESPN inspired terrain in the game and muppet costumes, why not add these other 2 cash cow properties? 

In the end I am probably not their core demographic, I get that, I am sure my daughter when she comes of age will probably be more into it than I am but in short I got into this both due to colleagues gushing over it, and getting it on discount, but I don't know how far beyond I would want to go with Infinity. 

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