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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Opinion: Why I hope Activision wins with Sypro

Spyro: looking for new ways to play games
Activision’s upcoming Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure has to succeed. It’s not that I necessarily care for the game itself, but what it could do for video games that I do care for is as revolutionary as the Wiimote was for shovelware.

To set the scene first though: About two years ago, I found myself in a Japanese arcade. Despite the fact that, as a non smoker it was unpleasant in the extreme having to literally push my way through a wall of smog to get to the games, I couldn’t resist the lure of seven floors of arcade goodness.

Midway up I came across a vending machine. Buy throwing in a few hundred yen (100 Yen is worth roughly the equivalent of $1) the machine spits out a pack of cards. These cards are as you’d expect from any other CCG – nice artwork and all.

But here’s the exciting bit: by taking these cards to a designated arcade cabinet, you could sit down and place the cards on a glass “tabletop.” Doing so would summon a unit on the screen above, which you could then maneuver around by moving the cards in front of you.

There is so much that can be done with these kinds of games
As a Magic the Gathering and wargame fan from way back, this was roughly the equivalent of heaven.

So to snap back to Spyro; this might well be the first real commercial attempt to bring this depth of augmented reality to videogames in the West. Should it take off, then the possibilities are truly massive.

Imagine buying a deck of Magic the Gathering cards, and then playing someone on the other side of the world via an AR system that generates impressive visuals 3D fighting effects. That in itself would bring some much-needed grandeur to the now classic card game, and potentially make a cybersport out of the championships.

Or imagine a cut-priced war game that plays like Warhammer, only instead of having to buy and spend weeks painting up armies for battle over the tabletop, you have a setup at home where you just need to place cards in front of a camera?

This Spyro experiment might be aimed at the toy side of the gaming industry, but what it promises could very easily transcend that. And this is why I’m glad Activision has the game. Activision is the masters of marketing big projects, and creating cultural phenomenons. It did it with Guitar Hero and music games, it did it with Call of Duty and FPSers. It can do it with AR games, too.

Fingers crossed, then, that Spyro is a success.
Opinion: Why I hope Activision wins with Sypro
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