Disney (DIS) will bring Marvel’s Avengers to life in the real world this October through Playmation, a new line of wearables, connected toys, and apps that use Bluetooth wireless technology, cloud computing, and the voices of Marvel characters to immerse players in an augmented reality battle between super heroes and super villains.
Gamers can already become virtual Marvel super heroes in Disney Interactive’s Disney Infinity 2.0: Marvel Super Heroes toys to life video game, which uses real world toys to unlock new game features. The new Playmation line is designed with input from Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Interactive Studios to flip the concept of toys to life on its head.
In development for several years, Kareem Daniel, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Disney Consumer Products, says this new platform of toys was designed to engage kids growing up in a digital world. The idea behind Playmation was “What if toys could play back?”
“We use digital technology to make active physical play more exciting for kids,” Daniel says. “Parents believe technology is becoming a natural part of kids’ lives, but at the same time most parents are nostalgic about how active they were when they played growing up. Kids love to play make-believe and become super heroes, and Playmation offers lots of different ways to play.”
Afsoun Yazdian, director of user experience and product management at Disney Consumer Products, explains that Playmation brings the super hero fantasy to life during physical play using wearables and connected toys that use light, sound, and haptic feedback to spark a child’s imagination.
Playmation Marvel’s Avengers is the first in a series of new franchise-based systems in development with Hasbro. Playmation Star Wars and Frozen systems will launch in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
J.A.R.V.I.S., the computerized A.I. developed by Tony Stark, guides players through missions and gameplay in a storyline that picks up after the events of the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. The toys use gesture recognition, infrared, and radio frequency technology to allow kids to battle super villains like Loki and Ultron. All of the action is recorded through the Avengers Gear wearable tech and saved on the AvengersNet app. Players can log onto their smartphone or tablet to download new missions and compare their own scores and accomplishments with their friends.
“A child’s imagination takes the place of the TV screen,” Yazdian says. “We’ve structured the experiences—missions, boss battles, cooperative play, competitive multiplayer in battle arenas—based on digital gameplay where players are leveling up, progressing, and becoming a stronger super hero.” The 25 missions that come with the game require kids to run, jump, dodge, hide, and shoot in the real world to take out enemies.
The Avengers Starter Pack includes the Iron Man Repulsor Gear Glove, Captain America and Iron Skull smart figures, and two power activators for $120. Additional wearables like Hulk Gamma Gear Hands ($40) will also be available, as well as 16 smart figures. Disney will also charge for additional digital content via the free mobile app.
Daniel says Playmation won’t cannibalize on the success of Disney Infinity, which has emerged as a $1 billion toy and video game franchise. Once Disney Interactive added Marvel Super Heroes to the franchise, sales doubled from 1.65 million copies of the first game to 3.35 million copies of the second, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. That bodes well for launching Playmation with Marvel’s Avengers.