Wonderbook: A Gamer’s Perspective

Many of you who were watching the Sony press conference let out a slight groan when the Wonderbook presentation started. And then another groan when the presentation went too long. I was like you, searching around the room for something to do, not really paying attention to the augmented reality and motion controls up on stage. Gamers aren’t entirely invested into those things, and the minute you take the DualShock out of our hands, we become wary. But in many ways, the creation of Wonderbook could be a good thing for the hardcore among us.

Creativity in the Casual Market

Gamers should be delighted to see this kind of innovation in Sony technology, it means they are thinking outside of the box. All we’ve heard over the past years is how Sony can’t think of an idea of their own. Nintendo will point to Modnation Racers and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale as direct rip-offs of their games. They’ll hold their nunchucks up in the air, declaring it the first successful motion controller, telling us that we were late to the party, which we were.

But I have never seen something like Wonderbook before in this industry. Nintendo, Microsoft, or anywhere. It is an original thought executed brilliantly. Admittedly, it isn’t for the hardcore audience like me. I don’t even have kids yet, so I won’t give Wonderbook a second look in the store. But it is the idea of Wonderbook that I love. It is the fact that Sony can now differentiate between hardcore and casual, young and old. Microsoft and Nintendo have started to get buried by their casual market, slowly losing their hardcore fans. Making their games Kinect ready and motion-controlled won’t work anymore and in many ways, that luster has worn off.

Wonderbook doesn’t try to appeal to the hardcore gamer. Sony isn’t taking away teams from other projects to create stories for it. I don’t want to see a Naughty Dog action book or Heavy Rain for kindergartners. At Sony’s press conference, we saw the latest projects from our favorite studios: The Last of Us, Beyond, God of War Ascension, PlayStation All-Stars, and more. It is obvious that with Wonderbook in production, Sony didn’t dilute their hardcore games. In fact, this was one of the best E3′s I’ve seen in a while. Short of Kevin Butler coming out, I’ve never heard the audience get so excited.

A Move Towards Storytelling

Sony had two major announcements with Wonderbook: a work called Book of Spells with writing from JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, and a work from Moonbot Studios called Diggs Nightcrawler. This might not matter to you. I mean, at first I didn’t care either. I was never into the Harry Potter series and Moonbot Studios meant nothing to me. Just show me the games!

But then I thought about it some more. JK Rowling has been able to create some of the most unique characters, environments, and stories with her books. Kids, teenagers, and adults all read her novels relentlessly. She is one of the most influential writers of the past decade.  And if Rowling is able to connect her Pottermore website with Book of Spells, that makes it all the better. One of the all-time best selling authors is bound to do wonders with Wonderbook.

Moonbot Studios was a foreign name to me when they announced it. But when I watched one of their videos on YouTube and saw what they are able to do, I became a fan. The co-founder of Moonbot Studios is William Joyce. This might not be a household name for many, but I know you’ll recognize his works. He created conceptual characters for Toy Story and A Bug’s Life. He won 3 Emmy’s for his work with Rolie Polie Olie on the Disney Channel. His book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, inspired the movie, Meet the Robinsons. He also won an Academy Award for one of his short animations. Moonbot Studios is not only able to create powerful, creative works, but also make them appealing to adults and children alike.

Now, these things don’t mean I’m going to buy a Wonderbook. I’m not. But they show how Sony continues to put an emphasis on storytelling. One of the things that makes Sony different from other game companies is their ability to get the player wrapped up in a world that they just don’t want to leave. The Resistance series was great because of the dark, gritty story they told. Uncharted is filled with memorable characters and believable dialogue. Hardcore gamers who love single player campaigns flock to Sony because they know they will get a story. Wonderbook does that for a new audience, a new, younger generation of gamers.

Leading the Charge

Wonderbook is all about creating that interactivity in a story, like we might feel when playing a RPG. We want to influence the story in one way or another, we want to exercise our limited freedom in gaming. Wonderbook allows that for a more casual audience.

The idea of interactivity within a book isn’t new. I remember reading those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books back in the day. And there have been a couple examples of interactivity in iOS books. But what Sony has in front of them brings interactivity to a whole new level. Children will be able to get enveloped in an entire world with Wonderbook. Like movies were to novels, Wonderbook could be for picture books. And Sony is able to lead the charge in this respect.

You might ask me, “How does that affect the hardcore gamers?” I’d answer by showing you the facts. Sony is hurting. They aren’t making any profit right now. The ability to branch off into other areas in the digital market will help Sony, if done correctly. Hopefully with advances in Wonderbook and other technologies, Sony would be able to get out of the red. Making hardcore games alone isn’t going to cut it, but if they are able to manage the casual fans while still pleasing us, the hardcore gamers, they can make positive strides to profit. When Sony is profiting, the gamers are winning.

Final Thoughts

This year Sony had E3 in the bag. We didn’t want much from them, just games. And then about halfway through the conference, Wonderbook appeared. It wasn’t welcome and it stayed too long. Twitter blew up with disgust and much of the momentum Sony had built up disappeared. I was with you all, frustrated and disappointed.

But if there is a company that knows gamers, it’s Sony. For decades they have been a driving force in the industry, producing blockbuster, hardcore games for us. In a multi-billion dollar industry that is changing rapidly, Sony is trying to keep it’s head above water. So, I ask you to look at it this way: if Sony is able to put this innovation, creativity, and storytelling into a game, wouldn’t you love it? Be excited for Wonderbook, because it means Sony is still trying to make that experience. It might not be for you right now, but in the end, it’s for the love of the games.

m4s0n501
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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/Stoffinator2008?gl=CA&hl=en Stoffinator

    I actually did not mind the presentations. It was just to long for the audience that was watching it. But the tech from Eyepet seems to be getting some use. The question is, will any kid want to play it? Maybe if it was an actual Harry Potter book this may fly off shelves.

  • http://twitter.com/Loonknight Loonknight

    This looks interesting, but it is not for me, and my nieces and nephews are too old now to really appreciate it. This does look like something they could port to the Vita, considering the AR games that are on there, and looks like it would work in conjunction with the touch screen instead of the Move Controllers.

  • androvsky

    I’d just finished reading “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson a week ago, so when the Wonderbook segment came on I told my wife Sony’s working on a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer.  Unfortunately, the execution looks barely acceptable at best.  Since the narrator seems to be reading everything out loud, what it actually is looks more like an AR mini-game collection than anything that should be called a book.

    If they make the child read text, but let them point at words they don’t understand to have them read aloud and defined, then I’ll be impressed.  I guess it’s possible the demo concentrated on the mini-games, and they do have J.K. Rowling on board, but I’m still skeptical.

  • http://twitter.com/willskate4free Stefano Echanique

    as a parent i thought this was awesome.  my 4yr old loves eye pet and i can see him loving this, didnt get all the hate for it on twitter and gaf, i think its something parents can do with their kiddos :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Light/903475001 Nick Light

      Most of the gripe came from people at the conference who felt the presentation went too long. I do think it will be great for kids, I was just looking at it from a hardcore gamer’s perspective.

  • ChazzH69

    For the E3 presentation, yes it went on too long. It should of just been a video & not a live presentation as well.

    But if Sony can put enough money into this and set up some good deals (Disney even the Roald Dahl stories) I could see this becoming a massive hit. I know I would love to read some interactive stories with my girls.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Light/903475001 Nick Light

      Great idea with Roald Dahl. What about Shel Silverstein or whoever wrote “Where the Sidewalk Ends?” I loved those books when I was young.

      • ChazzH69

        We can dream.. Please Sony, don’t mess this up.

  • Axe99

    Good article – I was exactly the same during the presentation, but as the idea sinks in, I think it has real merit.  And need not be relegated to kids either – there’s plenty of potential for some AR mature (as in complex conceptual stories, not naked people and violence) stuff as well.  Who knows how it’ll go, but it is a good innovation.

    Also – Eyetoy sold millions – it was the first successful console motion gaming system ;).

  • wv06

    I keep hearing tech and innovation but it is no different than any other augment reality game.  Just with a cardboard book.  Eyepet, and eye of judgement are better uses that came out years ago

  • GibsonD90

    As a Harry Potter fan I am slightly interested in this, so I appreciate you not completely writing it off. I probably wouldn’t give it a second look of it wasn’t for the input from JKR. Only way I would purchase it though is if it was decently priced. I already have Move so if it’s maybe $20-$30 I could give it a shot. The gameplay looked rough though. I was disappointed. The Move needs a dedicated HP title.