Disney is expanding its foray into the connected toys (or toys-to-life) category with a new offering called Playmation, which combines figurines and wearable devices from popular franchises including Star Wars and the Avengers with each other to create interactive adventures for kids to explore, all without requiring any kind of data connection or dedicated console.
The first Playmation product Disney is launching is the Marvel Avengers Starter Pack, which will hit store shelves in October. It includes a wearable Iron Man-inspired Repulsor that kids can strap to their arm, as well as two ‘Power Activators’ (which presumably activate powers) and two ‘Smart Figures’ (in this case Captain America and a rival, Iron Skull). Once you strap on that Repulsor device (which is large enough to fit grown-up kids, too), you’ll get audio instructions from JARVIS about how to use it, which gets the adventure started.
Behind the scenes, the hardware for Playmation combines sensors and wireless communication tech to detect actions performed by the wearer, as directed towards the included figures – or to other players who can join in wearing their own gear. Disney’s goal here it to untether the experience from consoles and specific locations, letting kids and adults play by wandering around, running, jumping and exploring. Multiplayer works by syncing Gear (like the Repulsor) for collaborative missions, or for competitive head-to-head action.
Think of it like an at-home version of laser tag, except taking advantage of the advent of cheap, highly-effective, miniature and omnipresent sensors and connection tech, combined with blockbuster brands like Marvel and Star Wars. Basically it sounds completely awesome, and provides a good way to encourage more traditional, active kinds of play using the same modern tech that’s spurring the rapid growth of the toys-to-life video game category, without the couch potato tendencies. It sounds like you’ll also be able to download new content to keep the adventure going.
The Avengers Starter Pack will retail for $120 in the U.S. and Canada when it goes on sale in October, and additional figures will provide plenty of expansion opportunity. Disney plans to expand the Playmation world further still with the addition of Star Wars systems in 2016, and Frozen play sets and devices in 2017.