The toys-to-life business, estimated to be a multi-billion dollar market, is currently dominated by Disney’s Disney Infinity franchise, but a new startup aims to stir things up.
Jumo is honing in on the massive mobile gaming audience with its new “games-to-life” action combat game, Infinite Arms. The company’s brainpower includes former game developers behind Halo and the creator of the 1990s Japanese interactive pet craze, the Tamagotchi.
“Our team leadership has an average of 20-plus years’ experience in the games industry, and we’ve leveraged all of our past learnings from console and mobile development to create a brand new experience specifically tailored to mobile devices,” says Jumo CEO and co-founder Keiichi Yano. “What Halo did for shooters on console, we believe we are doing for shooters on mobile—with the added bonus of cool toys.”
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Yasuo Takahama, with the creative title of Jumo’s Chief Fast Toys Officer, has been instrumental in the design and development of Transformers toys for more a decade as well as the Tamagotchi. Yamo posits Takahama truly understands how to best implement electronics into plastic and create exciting entertainment, and that his expertise has been critical to making this all work.
The toys-to-life genre was pioneered by Activision’s Skylanders, and the space recently became more populated with the entry of Warner Bros. Games’ LEGO Dimensions.
Yano explains his team jumped into this crowded market—both Disney and Activision have mobile versions of their franchises—because Jumo wanted to recreate the experience the founders had as kids playing with action figures while fantasizing about what it would be like to combine that with video games.
“We can take the richness of the worlds and characters we’ve created in video games and pull them out of the screen into reality,” Yano promises. “And we believe that mobile is the right platform for this because it really untethers you from space and time. No one else had made the product we wanted on mobile. We also wanted to create something that applied more mature themes so that we would feel compelled to play.”
Jumo has crafted a series of customizable action figures, rather than the static statuettes that Disney and Activision manufacture. The franchise will launch in late summer 2016 for Android and iOS devices as well as gameplay optional on Android TV and Apple TV with controller support.
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New toys will be rolled out across “seasons,” which Jumo specifies will comprise of four-month windows in which characters and weapons (called armaments) are sold. Once a season concludes, those physical products cease to be sold.
“We will offer a season opener package at launch with four new starter kits and seven new armaments,” Yano outlines. “Four new armaments will be released on a bi-weekly basis.”
Each season will bring new characters and armaments, and when each previous season is complete, those characters and armaments will no longer be available for purchase. Jumo reasons this approach makes all of the toys collectable, and thus, “limited edition” versions.
By combining different armaments with characters, players can unlock various in-game abilities. The toys connect directly and seamlessly to mobile devices without the need for wires, a separate portal, or other identification methods such as a camera.
“We really wanted our experiences to be interactive, so having the electronics housed directly in the action figures and being able to connect them to devices wirelessly with zero fuss was a huge priority for us,” Yano stresses. “We’d seen many products where the connection method was unintuitive and frustrating. We wanted something that ‘just worked’ and was fun to play with and something you would be proud to own.”
The first game, Infinite Arms, developed using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 technology, has been designed for multi-player battles. Yano believes Infinite Arms will connect with gamers who’ve outgrown games such as Disney Infinity as well as entice older gamers who don’t have children. (Parents are thought to spend a lot of time playing Skylanders and Disney Infinity cooperatively with their kids.)
“We see Infinite Arms as an aspirational product that will span multiple generations of players,” Yano remarks. “Because of this, it seemed to make sense for us to skew older into teens and young adults, as well as die hard toy fans and collectors as our core audience.”