WowWee puts real toys in digital games, creates 'appcessories'

The game for kids 9 and up lets them scan toys into a tablet, each with their own characteristics and mission

WowWee showed an upcoming game platform at the Consumer Electronics Show called AppGear, which combines real toys with on-screen animation to create a new product category it calls "appcessories."

Each AppGear game will be offered as a free download for iOS and Android tablets, and children (or their parents) will buy at retail the corresponding action figures, model planes and other appcessories to play it. Some of the games can be played on smartphones as well as tablets.

One game, "Foam Fighters," is paired with small toy airplanes made of foam. The player uses the tablet's camera to scan the plane into the system, and each plane has its own characteristics, story line and mission. A pack of two planes will cost US$10, said Mike Gonzales, WowWee's creative director.

The game uses the tablet's accelerometer, so the player can maneuver the tablet in the air to steer, firing at the enemy with on-screen buttons. The player can "exit" the game by flying through a gap in the clouds and, using the tablet's camera, appear to be flying around the room.

The player can attach the plane to the front of the iPad with a suction cup to complete the effect. It's supposed to mimic the way children run around the room flying a toy airplane in their hands. A video showing the game is here.

As with the other AppGear games, the idea is to get children to collect the different toys that come with it. WowWee hopes retailers will like that idea and see a way to keep selling games when many of them are moving online.

Another game, "Zombie Burbs", is paired with small plastic characters. Each character has a pattern stamped on the bottom and the player scans the character to load it in the game. The game is set in the suburbs and is played by pushing the toy around on the screen, a bit like on a board game, to advance through different levels.

There are six games and the first will come out in April, Gonzales said. The games were shown at CES on an iPad, but WowWee hopes to have the Android version ready by April as well. Other games include "Alien Jailbreak" and "Elite Commander".

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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