With the help of the designer of Tamagotchi and Transformers toys, Jumo is trying to breathe new life into the “toys-to-life” category that combines physical toys with digital games with a new title dubbed Infinite Arms. The characters in this brand-new entertainment property are giant robots with all sorts of weapons that can be attached to them, much like the Transformers characters.
The product is aimed at kids who are increasingly choosing mobile games over toys as early as age seven, compared to age 12 a decade ago.
Two years in the making, Infinite Arms is the first game that uses the platform, with toy robots connected to a free-to-play game that seamlessly merges mobile gameplay with physical toys. It features fast-paced action combat, a gripping narrative, high-quality graphics, and the latest in Bluetooth technology.
Infinite Arms will launch in late summer this year for iOS and Android. Keiichi Yano, chief executive of Jumo, referred to the category as “games-to-life,” which brings characters and universes of games into the real world so that fans can interact with them in exciting ways. Jumo is interweaving the launch of new game characters with the release of limited-edition toys that will come out on an episodic, seasonal basis.
“This is more than creating a new Skylanders on the iPhone,” said Chris Ezaki, chief creative officer, in an interview with GamesBeat. “Toys need to evolve to keep up with the digitalization of our lives. A Skylander is a statue. You don’t actually play with it.”
Toys-to-life took hold with the launch of Skylanders in 2011. The category grew into a multibillion-dollar business, but it stalled in the last holiday season with too many products and too little innovation.
“We want to disrupt how toys and games are created and distributed,” Yano said. “It makes sense to go in the opposite direction, to pull rich characters from the games into a tangible reality in the toys.”
To support this strategy, Jumo created a patented system dubbed Fast Toys, which expedites toy manufacturing to allow the rapid release of physical toys to keep up with the content demands of games. By launching the toys more quickly, Jumo hopes to keep pace with the appetite that players will have for free-to-play mobile game content. A new weapon could come out every two weeks. You can attach up to four weapons on each character.
“If you are going to put smart toys with free-to-play mobile games, the toy gets refreshed once a year or two years if you are lucky,” Ezaki said. “Our idea is derived from fast fashion. We accelerate every aspect of design, manufacturing, and fulfillment. This is crucial to our business model.”
Jumo has a rock star team. The company was conceived by Yano (who made music games such as Elite Beat Agents and Lips), Chris Esaki (designer of games such as Kill Switch, Mass Effect, and Gears of War), Akio Fujii (Bandai Namco and DeNA), Yasuo Takahama (Transformers and Tamagotchi), and Tom Abernathy (League of Legends and The Division).
Infinite Arms takes place in the year 2050, a time in which virtually every facet of human society takes place online in an evolved Internet known as the Crux. Globalization has led to the rise of transnational Power Houses who shun conventional military conflict and corporate warfare, instead battling via proxy. These houses engage in battle using new artificial combatants known as Metamods: juggernauts driven by skilled human pilots. Metamods don weapon accessories called Armaments, giving them infinite customization potential.
In the mobile game, up to six players can play simultaneously. The game has a full narrative-driven campaign, real-time multiplayer arena modes, and squad-based missions. It uses the latest version of the Unreal Engine 4 to take mobile graphics to new levels.
Jumo plans to have new campaign episodes released every two weeks with seasonal releases of new toys. Each toy has its own identification chip, communications system, and multiple places where you can attach weapons. Each weapon also has a chip in it. The toy can even send push notifications to you via your mobile device. You can level up a weapon and customize it, and that data will be stored.
“You can level up your weapons like characters,” Yano said.
Each toy has 20 points of articulation so that the action figures are fully poseable. You can strategically customize action figures with four attachable weapons from a periodically updated library. The action figures connect instantly and seamlessly within the game. You don’t need any wires or portals to connect the toys to the mobile device. Built-in speakers communicate feedback to players, and the toys have metallic paint finishes. They also light up and store some data.
I played a demo of the toys with the third-person shooter game. As soon as I attached a weapon to a character, it showed up in the game. If I pulled it off the Skorpos character, the weapon disappeared in the game. Then I squared off against an Ixion X-class robot in a battle arena, and took him down. I tapped the screen to fire.
You can take on other players in three-versus-three multiplayer and vy for the top of the leaderboard. You can win rewards, and those who are at the top of the leaderboard can receive something very valuable.
You can also order new characters and weapons from inside the game using Amazon.com. When you buy something, you have a small chance of getting a rare gold version. And once the weapons are sold out, they will no longer be produced. So each season of characters and weapons is a limited edition.
If you don’t want to spend money on the toys, you can just play the free-to-play game and level up your character without spending money.
Abernathy said, “We are doing something interesting with our story. It’s an investment in a new intellectual property. It’s as good as a Saturday morning cartoon, with full episodes and seasons.”
Jumo has raised money from investors, but it isn’t talking about them yet.
Pre-registration for the game begins today at the official Infinite Arms web site. Gamers who pre-register will receive free in-game bonus items at launch.
Gamers interested in getting an early hands-on the game can sign up for the limited access beta campaign which will begin rolling out this spring.
Over time, Jumo hopes to launch more intellectual properties, or perhaps license the toy-game platform out to another company. Transformers certainly comes to mind.
“We are going to launch a platform that can support a lot of products and third parties too,” Yano said. “This is just our tentpole product.”