Traditional play inspires Mattel's Apptivity

"We wanted to provide a representation of what kids imagine when playing," says app maker.
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With its new Apptivity line Mattel is looking to combine physical toys with the excitement of apps.

It hopes to leverage big brands like Hot Wheels and WWE Rumblers, as well as app favourites like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope.

But although app toys bring the high tech of tablets to the toy business, it’s actually traditional play values that are at the heart of Apptivity.

Nick Baynes, studio head at BigBit, developer for Mattel's iPad Apptivity titles, spoke exclusively to ToyNews at Mattel's Apptivity launch in Westfield London, where a giant iPad was shown off.

“When it came to the gameplay, it was all about thinking about how we used to play with toys when we were a kid,” he said.

We’re all familiar with the sight of a child pushing along a die-cast toy car (often accompanied by ‘vroom’ sounds) – it's play at its purest, and enhancing these wholesome play patterns was the concept used to develop the games.

Baynes explains: “With Hot Wheels they are driving the car on the carpet, but what they are imagining might be driving on a race track or in a rocky canyon. We wanted to provide a digital representation of what kids imagine when they are playing.”

In the WWE Rumblers Apptivity title, kids' action figures are brought to life with battling gameplay.

For studios like BigBit, the app toys sector represents a new frontier of game development, and also a neat way to add extra value to the typically low price, high volume app business.

And, pleased with the success of his company's project with Mattel, Baynes told ToyNews that BigBit would “definitely” be making more apps which interact with toy products.

He added: “It’s a really challenging time in game development right now with the uncertainty over future platforms and business models, so the emergence of these toys that interact with apps opens up a new sector of in our market. Anything that adds a bit of life to our business is great.”

Massive marketing

Mattel used a giant iPad to debut Apptivity to the media at Westfield London.

Apart from events like this, what else is in store to promote the brand?

“The initial objective is to raise awareness of the category, to get people understanding what these toys are all about and also that they’re safe to use with the iPad,” said Mattel's boys marketing manager Jonathan Kirkley.

“There’s a number of messages to get across and we’re essentially starting from ground zero. Which is why we’ve gone with a mix of mass media with very targeted media.”

“We’re still doing traditional TV marketing, but a big chunk of the campaign is focused online so we can be very targeted on those people who are iPad owners, embedding rich content and Apptivity demos online and into iPad.”

At the Apptivity launch – complete with giant iPad.


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