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Reaction: Wonderbook Should Not Be Overlooked

Posted by Sammy Barker

Reading comprehension

Wonderbook seems to be the butt of many E3 jokes this year. Aggrieved core gamers feel that Studio London’s latest casual endeavour should have been sacrificed in favour of a greater Vita push. They’re half right – we’ve already criticised Sony and said that its lacklustre Vita display was a huge mistake – but while the demonstration could have been more concise, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Wonderbook was arguably the most important product on Sony’s pre-show press conference stage.

For those that glossed over the news, Wonderbook is a brand new peripheral designed to work with the PlayStation Eye. The physical book – which we’re assuming will be available as part of a software bundle – uses augmented reality to bring stories to life. Instead of being bound to the page, Wonderbook is able to transform novels into fully interactive experiences. In short, it’s able to make reading enjoyable for a new era of technologically aware children, and that’s a pretty powerful selling point.

But while certainly innovative, Wonderbook would be meaningless without the content to back it up; yet Sony has managed to secure the biggest children’s author of all time, J.K. Rowling, to collaborate with the product’s first title, Book of Spells.

It’s a deal that’s already prompted mainstream press coverage in the UK. The Sun – Britain’s biggest selling tabloid newspaper – picked up on the Wonderbook announcement, describing the product as the “Kindle for kids” in an article that will be read by an estimated circulation of around 2.5 million people. Perhaps the decision to promote the title during the biggest gaming convention in the world wasn’t such a bad move after all?

Book of Spells ties directly into the Harry Potter universe and features original writing from author J.K. Rowling. The game sees you work through an enchanted textbook as you learn and read about the history of various spells from the world of wizardry.

Arguably the most refreshing thing about Books of Spells (and the Wonderbook initiative in general), is its desire to do something different with the motion controlled experience. Book of Spells uses the PlayStation Move controller to augment a wand into your hand and allow you to interact directly with the words on the page. Indeed, the concept is a million miles away from the sports and fitness games that have dominated the motion controlled space to date.

But most importantly, it shows Sony is willing to innovate in the casual market again. The success of Nintendo Wii has caused some pundits to forget that Sony was once the leader of the mainstream arena. Titles such as Buzz and SingStar were the industry’s very first venture into the lucrative casual space, but with Move the platform holder’s been playing catch-up. That’s not to say titles like Sports Champions and Start the Party are abject failures, it’s just that they’ve been done before.

Wonderbook allows Sony to target a new audience, with a product that’s incredibly unique. The collaboration with J.K. Rowling gives it immediate gravitas, and while the concept’s unlikely to appeal to the hardcore audience, it’s almost certainly going to be PlayStation’s biggest casual hit in a while.

Earlier in the year we speculated that 2012 was poised to become PS3’s most mainstream year yet, and titles like Book of Spells are certain to ensure that. Sony’s press conference outlined that there’s still plenty in the pipeline for core gamers, but with the right marketing and price-point, Wonderbook has the potential to become the platform’s most important product yet.

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User Comments (14)

Stuffgamer1

#1

Stuffgamer1 said:

Well, I have a co-worker who chose Xbox 360 over PS3 in the motion control war of 2010. He's also a HUGE Harry Potter fan. When I told him about Wonderbook and Book of Spells, he predictably said he's going to have to get a PS3 now. So there IS a market this thing will sell to...but Shawnee's a VERY unique guy, so I couldn't guess at how LARGE that market really is.

Slapshot

#2

Slapshot said:

I'm a Potter nerd, and I very much so enjoy reading the interactive experience that is Pottermore. There's so little core Harry Potter stuff outside of the books and movies, I think fans will eat this up.

Splat

#3

Splat said:

I don't think they will have a problem selling Books of Spells since Harry Potter is HUGE, but I'm not sure how other books will sell.

odd69

#5

odd69 said:

I enjoyed the presentation myself, this and sorcery is what i plan on getting later during the year(way later though)

KALofKRYPTON

#6

KALofKRYPTON said:

Yep, the Potter-verse is indeed big business. A lot more people I actually know have made the 150 mile trip to visit the attraction in London and spent hundreds of pounds getting there and buying merchandise. It's a smart move.

What would also be a smart move for Sony would be companion 'books' for games, back story fillers and interactive game guides would be quite good sellers I think. . .

get2sammybAdmin

#7

get2sammyb said:

@Splat That's actually a fair point. There are lots of great authors and brands that this could be implemented into, though, and as long as Book of Spells gets it into homes, I imagine people will be interested in seeing what's next.

rjejr

#8

rjejr said:

I know Harry Potter is this generations Star Wars and no doubt this will sell but I still don't see it being played all that much, it just looks so awkward. I don't see how this wouldn't work better on an iPad. Not the Move part, but the interactive book come to life part. Why do you even need the book, Eyepet does all of that with just the Move. Guess we'll see.

KALofKRYPTON

#9

KALofKRYPTON said:

@rjejr
If you look at the book in the E3 stage demo its a book of AR cards. It makes sense to anchor the 'book' to something physical. Also, it's a book.

Slaysme

#10

Slaysme said:

I hate tv AR. Vita, iPad, these serve is a " window, or looking glass,"if you will. Seeing yourself on the tv takes too much away from the experience.

Ginkgo

#11

Ginkgo said:

I must be missing something. Other than giving someone the feel of having a book in their lap, I still don't understand what the physical book actually does.

If I understand correctly, the PS3 does the AR which is displayed on the TV, the PS Eye transfers your image into the AR on the TV so you appear part of the experience. You even use a standard dual shock to control part of the story. None of that requires the book.

What does the physical book actually do? Is it just to have something tactile as you turn the page?

NathanUC

#13

NathanUC said:

@Ginkgo While at first it might seem silly, it helps sell an experience I think. It's no surprise this looks like it will be something for the younger audience, having a physical book makes it something more tangible to them. Since it's probably just cardboard and paper, it's not like it costs a whole lot to add to the experience.

Plus, we might see some type of activity that requires the book to be moved around or manipulated. Hard to say until we see a game released.

Ginkgo

#14

Ginkgo said:

Looking at the video again, the pages of the book have high contrast geometric patterns on them. Presumably so that they can be easily recognised by the PS Eye/software. My guess is that there is a different pattern on each page, so the PS can track where you are up to and when you turn the page etc.

So yes, it does appear that the book will most likely be just cardboard used to give you something tangible to interact with. I guess people know and love the feel/smell of books. Interested to see if this sells. EyePet was a hit with my kids so maybe.

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