We have introduced you to the Melbits™ and the device capable of incubating them: the Melbits™ POD. From the intricacies of the 3D printing prototyping to the fantastic origin of these digital pixies, we have been going through the different elements and processes that will compose this digital toy designed to spark the imagination of children.
That’s why we have decided to open a new section in our blog to share with you the references in the world of entertainment that have inspired us to create the Melbits™ POD.
We start this section with the well-known “Toys to life”. Who didn’t want their toys come to life when they were kids? Movies such as Toy Story by Pixar, reflect very well our children’s desire to recreate adventures with our favorite game friends.
“Toys to life”, for those who have never heard about the term, are collectible figures that interact with a video game, usually using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology. In this way, the toys unlock digital content and expand the game. Basically, they introduce the figurine into the video game so it can be used in the digital world.
The first concept of “Toys to life” is attributed to U.B. Funkeys. A Mattel project designed by Radica Games and Arkadium where you could collect more than 45 species of “Funkeys”. Through a “Hub”, which looked like a Funkey but bigger, you could connect the different species to unlock new online game characters and mini-games.
The project ceased production in 2010. Despite this, the UB Funkeys community is still alive. As a curiosity, they even created a petition on Change.org for Mattel to bring the initiative back to life.
Although the U.B. Funkeys weren’t as successful as posterior Toys to life products, they certainly laid the first stone of the road. That’s why, at Melbot we feel admiration for this project that was one of the first to try to mix the best of physical interaction with the immersion that the digital video games offer.
After the discontinuation of the U.B. Funkeys, other similar projects emerged without much projection as “F.A.M.P.S.”
It wasn’t until a year later, in 2011, that Toys For Bob took over the Toys To Life category , and the whole world, by a storm. Partly thanks to a famous purple little dragon that reinvented itself into the video game industry to give birth to the Skylanders.
Activision gave the studio carte blanche to create the next Spyro’s next title. A beloved mascot from PSX times who had seen its trajectory reignited thanks to Activision after obtaining the rights when purchasing Vivendi.
Toys for Bob knew how to revitalize the genre to such an extent that the franchise was worth $3 billion. And created the best selling toy line of the history. Becoming one of the most profitable franchises during that time.
In Skylanders, players place different character dolls in a “Power Portal” that “imports” the figure represented to the game as a playable character. Each Skylander has his own skills in his mission to defend the Skylands from the evil Kaos.
With the success of Skylanders, it didn’t take long for other companies to jump on the Toys to Life bandwagon. The “House of the Mouse” sought to do the same with their Disney Infinity figures, which had some good production rounds and presented sagas as famous as Marvel or Star Wars, in addition to those of the animation factory.
But there were others, at Melbot we especially like the case of LEGO Dimensions. The power of Warner’s franchises, such as Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, combined with the quality of the studio that developed the digital part, Traveller’s Tales, and the added possibilities offered by being able to assemble your own figures and vehicles and “transport” them to the video game, simply seems spectacular to us.
Currently, both Disney Infinity and LEGO Dimensions have ceased production. Only Skylanders and Amiibo continue, the latter produced by the Japanese company Nintendo. Although sales seem to have reached a plateau. The Toys to life model has been the king of toy stores for a while, but as the “Starlink: Battle for Atlas” project has experienced more recently, consumers seem to be bored of a model that is too oriented to a continuous expenditure and to the collection of figurines, something perhaps too linear.
The toys to life model had its last iterations in projects that, after achieving great success in Kickstarter, have been pivoting and evolving their proposal, like “Lightseekers: Awakening” that presented a multimedia franchise developed by PlayFusion that involved a card game, video games and toys that interrelate.
At Melbot, like toys to life did back in the day, we seek to explore that convergence between digital toys, video games and augmented reality experiences. Our goal is to create digital gameplay but include an open-ended physical component that stimulates the imagination. You can incubate your own Melbits by combining light, temperature or movement without needing a tablet nearby, just as you can play with your Melbits tribe without having the POD connected. With Melbits, Melbot seeks to create entertainment products that are interrelated. After all, these digital pixies live on any device connected to the Internet. So there may come a time when you can play with your own Melbits regardless of the game or toy you use from these digital pixies.
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