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NFC Technology Adds a New Dimension to Games

Near-field communication (NFC) enables electronic devices to communicate when within a certain distance of each other. Now, this technology has been integrated into toys or games for a more advanced experience. Just like Bluetooth, NFC has a short-range. NFC is somewhat slower, but it works well for the applications it is meant for. It makes sense that the range is shorter since NFC consumes less power. You won’t find NFC that works at more than 20 cm, but this means that gameplay isn’t going to be interrupted by interference, which makes it ideal in areas where there may be a crowd or other devices emitting similar signals.

NFC was present in video games as far back as 2011 with Skylanders: Spyros Adventure. Thanks to NFC technology, it became the perfect marriage between a video game and figurines. If a person wanted the best gaming experience, the toy would also have to be purchased. The figurine could then be customized with personal data, which means no two figurines were exactly the same. [1]

NFC Technology for Games

Console-wise, Wii-U was the first to have NFC technology built into its gamepad. The Nintendo 3DS was next, as it was built into the 3DS/XL and a separate reader could use infrared to communicate with the handheld console. Nintendo also implemented a wireless storage and communication protocol to use in the “toys-to-life” market, and it was called Amiibo. Amiibo was launched in 2014 and is used via the 3DS, Wii-U, and Nintendo Switch platforms. It works with figurines that are Amiibo enabled. The figurines are very similar to the Skylanders figurines introduced in 2011. The Disney Infinity series also uses that technology. [2,3]

In 2014, Nintendo had announced that Amiibo could include card games, small toys, and the famous Animal Crossing game. It was predicted then that the toys and games would change over time, so the gaming experience could become even more customized. The integration of NFC technology has become another part of Nintendo’s resurgence in the video game market but has helped it infiltrate the toy market like it never had before. The idea behind this is to create toys that make consumers feel wonder. The toys create a virtual experience that wouldn’t be possible if NFC technology didn’t exist.

Most of us are familiar with Bluetooth technology and how it can allow two devices to communicate with one another. NFC technology is used in several different ways: [4]

  • NFC tags require no power in the tag
  • The cost of the tag is less
  • The tag is RFID compatible
  • There’s no cryptography with RFID
  • The setup time is shorter

Using NFC for Interactive Play

The point of NFC technology being used in toys and games is the interactive play. Instead of just sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time, tokens and toy figurines can help children and even adults utilize their imaginations in more unique ways. The Jooki, for instance, is like Amiibo, but it targets young music lovers. Jooki uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi speakers that have the music storage space built-in. The user uses a figurine to choose what he or she wants to listen to. The idea behind Jooki is to give kids a music player that doesn’t have screens and menus to distract them.

The device might not look like anything more than a colorful speaker, but it’s a technological marvel that gives parents a break from having to be their child’s DJ when the child wants to change songs. Simply place the token or figurine on the NFC point at the center of the speaker, and a song will play. Of course, this is after the parent installs up to 4 GB of music by connecting Jooki to a computer or using the companion app. One more example of NFC technology at work in toys is the Pokémon Rumble U NFC Figurines. [5]

These figurines work in conjunction with Pokémon Rumble U. There are more than 20 figures that can be scanned for play within the game. Each figure has a different level of attack, defense, and speed. Although technology may sound intimidating, the cost of the figures is very affordable. This makes it easy for players to collect the figures and enjoy them in the game. Basically, each Pokémon Rumble U figure changes up the gaming experience, allowing players to get much more out of the game than if the figures didn’t exist. This is an excellent way in which video games can be revolutionized in a much more interactive way. [6]

This technology isn’t new, but it isn’t going to be old anytime soon either. More devices are utilizing it. Don’t be surprised if everything from frequent shopper loyalty cards to business and library cards starts utilizing NFC technology. This is a technology that can cut down on waste, but most importantly, it’s being used in a way that brings toys and games to life for children. We live in a time where parents see the benefits of gaming but don’t want their children spending too much time in front of the screen. Figures that use NFC technology to make games more interactive add a new imaginative element to the gaming experience.

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