Behind closed doors at Toy Fair 2011 there exists a toy that brings the virtual world to life, that merges video games and electronic pets, and looks cute and can make you smile with wonder. I am laying it on a bit thick, but you know Wappy Dog even in the prototype stage impressed me. It is such a great idea to merge these two concepts together for the US market. Sega and Activision have evolved the virtual pet market.
So this is a prototype that I saw, so things may change before the final, but I did want to give you some information and my thoughts on the project so far. So you have this Wappy Dog toy that you can communicate with via the Nintendo DS. Pretty awesome, but it looks like the team has also thought about a lot of ways to make sure Wappy Dog is fun rather than frustrating and unique rather than pedestrian.
So many things to note so let me just do a knowledge dump and comment that way. Wappy Dog will be able to be customized with spots and accessories on the physical dog as well as the virtual version with different colors and outfits as well. For me this toy needs to really have the level of customization that will appeal to the kids. They may want it to look like their own dog, they may want it to look like their friends dog, or they may want it to look like a dog breed that they like. This will be key and it seems like they are on the right track here. I think this will also allow the Wappy Dog toy to appeal to boys as well as girls by allowing this customization of the dog. I can already see accessories in the future as well.
The other very nice feature is the ability to play with Wappy Dog in “Home Mode” which allows you to interact with the physical dog or with the DS or “Outing Mode” which means you can play and care for their pet just virtually if you are going on a trip or a short run to the store. I think this is genius, because it allows Wappy Dog to really become part of the children’s routine like a regular dog and if you go on vacation Wappy Dog is not forgotten. They said you will do this by transitioning the virtual Wappy Dog heart between the dog or DS, kind of like checking the dog into your DS when it is time to go. This will allow that attachment between Wappy Dog and child to form which will really make this feel like a pet rather than an electronic device.
The other things that I really like was the fact that Wappy Dog can play different games with the user, you even get to see the Wappy Dog paw on the Nintendo DS whie you are playing a game against Wappy. There are different skill levels and you will be able to play all sorts of games and interact with your new best friend. This keeps the whole theme of immersion that Wappy Dog is real rolling. You will also need to take care of Wappy Dog by feeding and grooming, but the team has stated that Wappy Dog will have short term mood interactions. No need to worry that Wappy Dog will become mad at the child for days or fade into nothing if you do not feed him. Wappy Dog gives you all the good aspects of owning a dog, without having to clean up after them.
The way that Wappy Dog responds to your Nintendo DS is great and makes him/her seem like a real dog. I have heard that the paws may get a refresh before the final product and the material for the tail and ears as well. This is a product I can see my boys playing with and I can already tell that means two Wappy Dogs in my house, which is not a bad thing. This is a beginning of a new form of virtual world entertainment and Wappy Dog has jumped in paws first, and we eagerly await the day our boys can try it out. This is really one of those products you need to see and interact with in person to get the full feel of the product.