You might’ve seen a bit of news about this – Mattel is releasing a game console for “tweens,” which merges both game and card scanning phenomena into one package. Certainly on paper that sounds like something born of a marketing orgy, but I went that extra step and requested images and additional info. Very interestingly, the sytem is CD-based, and boasts a 32 bit architecture. They haven’t yet released the actual specs and chip manufacturers, but I’m promised that information once they’re ready to reveal it. If you look at the system to the left (click for largeness!), it’s got some curious design. It folds, but mostly for storage. You put the CD in the left, and cards are scanned over the red light on the righthand side. Two joypad ports come standard, but a second controller is extra, indicating that these games will actually feature AI, and not just be player vs player. It’s a bit complicated how these games work, but rather interesting as well. The game is loaded via the CD, and during play, players can pause and scan upgrades/attribute changes for their character. Once they achieve victory, they can ‘save’ this upgraded character to a rewritable Intellicard (more on that in just a bit). The system is said to combine their rewritable card technology with “the fast-paced, button-mashing action of video games.”
The first crop of games seems to include fighters, mostly. The console ships with X-Men, a controller (designed for tween-sized hands, but I’m sure we could manage), and 6 game cards, for $70. Additional controler is $20, additional game cards are 6 for $10 in randomized booster packs (aka, holy crap there’s our money, as each game has 100 corresponding cards!), and there’s also an Intellicard holder and console case available. I’m still a bit unclear about which cards are rewritable, all of them, or some of them? Interesting regardless.
Now let’s take a look at a game shot (make click for large experience). Here you’ll find an image from the X-Men game, which is quite revealing. Backgrounds and sprites are obviously prerendered, and the image sent to me was very high res (I actually shrank the supplied image by 50%). Not sure if the console itself will boast such a mighty resolution, but check out Wolverine’s avatar on the left side. Pretty clean! Not sure what’s up with the one on the right though. You can see each pixel in the dithering of the shadows. It looks a lot like early prerendered work on the Saturn, which is pretty intriguing. Aside from X-Men, there will be a game based on Cartoon Network’s Ben 10, which I’d presume to be a side scroller, a game for Mattel’s own Interstellar Wrestling League, and Marvel Heroes will be released in November, 2006. The console itself is scheduled to launch in October.
So they plan to hit the tween market which has graduated from plug and play systems, but isn’t ready for dedicated consoles. I’m not entirely certain that such a demographic really exists, as a number of dedicated console games are aimed directly at the tween market, but that’s neither here nor there. Here’s the really odd thing though – this is Mattel – you might remember that they created the Intellivision, which sold over 3 million units in the early days of gaming (hey, I finally made good use of this!), which was an impressive number in those days, though the VCS did dominate the market. Nowhere in the press releases or literature are they hyping this fact, or their triumphant return to the games market. That’s curious enough on its own, but that they decided to name their card technology Intellicard, and then ignore their own roots, well…it’s unusual! They had a peripheral called the Intellivoice, after all. I suppose there could be licensing issues with the current Intellivision Lives company, but it’s also possible that nobody at Mattel remembers the time when they were on top of the game industry. There’s been very little press for this thing, they might’ve gotten a fair bit more if they’d leveraged that! At any rate, check out the official HyperScan site for more info. It’s not got any content as of yet, but it should have some shortly. I can envision some seriously interesting applications of this, though I doubt its potential will be fully explored, as this is primarily to be a license-driven machine. Great possibility there though. Mattel should be sending me one of these things for review come august, so keep an ear open.