As the holiday season approaches, media giant Disney is hoping kids—or at least their parents—will spend some end-of-year holiday gift-giving money on toys based on Disney characters and franchises—and the company has worked tirelessly over the years to ensure that Disney-themed items are nigh-inescapable. Now, the company has combined its prowess for physical children’s toys with the Apple iPad, announcing its first Appmates Mobile Application Toys. The Appmates toys are specially designed to make the iPad into a “virtual playmate,” sporting unique footprints that the iPad’s touch-sensitive screen can detect and recognize as a particular toy—users just load up the appropriate toy-themed app, and the physical toys can jump into an iPad-based adventure. The first set of Appmates toys are based around characters from the Disney/Pixar Cars franchise, but the company plans to introduce a large line of “appcessory” products designed to engage kids with their—or their parents’—iPads.
“We have cracked the technology code in changing the way kids play with their toys,” said Disney Consumer Products director of digital toys Sunny Lauridsen, in a statement. “Kids will always use toys to play out their favorite Disney stories, but Disney Appmates now allows them to include technology which has become a way of life for them through a beautifully rich app.”
The Cars-themed Appmate toys interact with the Cars 2 Appmates app via the unique footprint on the base of each toy: the toys do not need Bluetooth or any cabling to work with the app. And the Cars 2 Appmates app is available for free—it’s just the toys that’ll cost money. Folks who want to get a taste can download the app and try it for free with their fingers.
Each toy unlocked different features and content in the application specific to a character, creating an open-ended world of game play that is highly repeatable using different characters. Players can explore the world fo Radiator Springs, race against World Grand Prix opponents and friends in town on five racetracks (more tracks may be added later), players can trick out their cars with unique horns, tire tracks, and add-on gear, and each character has unique missions. There’s even an in-game virtual currency: hubcaps.
The Appmates toys should be available at retailers (including Disney and Apple stores) starting October 1, with vehicle two-packs running $19.99. Four characters will be available initially, with two more female characters coming in November exclusively at Apple Stores.