Jumo founders on creating a new era of connected play with 'games-to-life'

Billy Langsworthy

By Billy Langsworthy

March 23rd 2016 at 10:14AM
UPDATED March 24th 2016 at 1:01PM
Jumo founders on creating a new era of connected play with 'games-to-life'

The new company's CEO, Keiichi Yano, and chief creative officer, Chris Esaki, tell ToyNews about their plans for the mobile game/toy mash-up Infinite Arms and what 'games-to-life' actually means.

Jumo has debuted its new 'games-to-life' concept, Infinite Arms, a connected, free-to-play gaming experience that merges mobile gameplay with physical toys.

Here, we talk to the company's co-founders about the origins of Infinite Arms, future brand extensions for the concept and what 'games-to-life' actually means.

Where did the idea for your mobile game/toy hybrid Infinite Arms come from?

Keiichi Yano, Jumo CEO: The original idea came about three years ago. It came out of a side project I was working on. The idea was so compelling to me that I though I’d start a company based on the idea. That’s when I talked to Chris and the team has been around for two and a half years ago and the company has been around for a year.

The process has been so complex. It’s not just been about having toys connect to a game. It’s been about ensuring it makes sense on a free-to-play platform. Then it was about fulfilment. We wanted to keep costs low. 'Hot Toys for mass consumers' is what we’re going for.

You've said that Infinite Arms is the industry's first ‘games-to-life’ title. How is games-to-life different from toys-to-life?

Keiichi Yano: Toys-to-life is industry jargon. It’s not something that consumers immediately know what it means. It’s about dead plastic coming to life in a game. We wanted the world of the game to come first.

We’re trying to supplant the Saturday morning cartoon. It doesn’t exist anymore and when we were young, that’s how we would gain an affinity for characters, but kids don’t do that anymore. Kids aren’t watching TV, they’re watching YouTube and they’re playing games on mobile devices. So it makes sense to use the mobile platform to create an affinity for new IP.

Games-to-Life is about creating games and IP that we will continue to nurture over to time. We want our customers to gain an affinity for that IP through the game.

It’s all connected through Amazon so when they like the character, they can get the toys delivered straight to their door. 30 per cent of all toys sold in North America are sold through Amazon. That’s a huge number but it makes sense. Millennials purchase things online that our generation wouldn’t. People buy clothes online – that’s weird to me. Eventually everything will be purchased that way so it makes sense for us to be ahead of that curve.

While both you and Chris has a rich history in video games, toys remain a core element of Infinite Arms. How important was it to get the toys right?

Keiichi Yano: We wanted to be on mobile, and for us to do that we needed to support the free-to-play model and for us to do that, we needed a rapid development process when it came to both the game and the toys.

I’ve been working with Yasuo Takahama, our chief Fast Toys officer, for two and half years to develop the smoothest process to design characters in toys and then get them into the game. He created 30 per cent of the Transformers and he is a toy expert.

Chris Esaki, Jumo's Chief Creative Officer: This whole thing wouldn’t have been possible without 3D printing. The new technology helped us get along in the production process.

In video games, if something doesn’t work, we’re constantly changing things up to the last minute before we release a product. Similarly, we had to make sure we could iterate on the toy side for as long as possible before they go into production. The iteration is so tight with this and that’s all down to 3D printing.

We’re constantly working as video game designers, so we create things that look great in 2D. But when they’re created in 3D, they take on a totally different form. That helped me understand that we needed a rapid iteration process on the physical side.

Are there any plans for TV and other brand extensions for Infinite Arms?

Chris Esaki: For sure. We want to make sure this lives where the gamers currently consumer media. It’s on a mobile device, it’s on YouTube, it’s on Vine – it’s where they live. If we can create content that lives there, that’s what we want to do.

With Infinite Arms, we have essentially created a TV season. It’s episodic content. We’re telling a serial narrative and we could easily tie that into a real TV show or movie events. It makes a lot sense.

I don’t want to jump the gun because it has to work in the game first, but we’d love the brand to develop in this way.