Software and games giant Microsoft has secured a patent for something that sure sounds like the Xbox firm is getting into the toys-to-life space.
A new patent from the Big M for 'Gaming System for Modular Toys' was published by US patent and trademark authority USPTO on Thursday, August 1st 2019 having been filed on December 20th, 2018, and describes a means by which a user can connect modules in "different ways to form a coherent physical whole object".
A game would then receive data as to the configuration, interacting with the physical items in the real world.
This sounds an awful lot like a toys-to-life project, similar to Beasts of Balance - formerly Fabulous Beasts - from British developer Sensible Object, as well as the Swap Force entry in Activision's Skylanders series.
It's worth noting that patents are not products and that this technology may never be used in a real-life game. This patent, however, is a continuation of a 2016 application for the same tech, which in itself was continuing on from an application made in 2014, which suggests that Microsoft has put a fair bit of effort into securing this intellectual property.
The toys-to-life genre kicked off in 2011 with the original Skylanders game, with that franchise generating over $3bn in four years. Other mainstream brands decided to get in on the action, including the House of Mouse's Disney Infinity in 2013 - which was discontinued three years later - and Warner Bros' LEGO Dimensions, which ran between 2015 and 2017.
Nintendo's Amiibo toy line rolled out in 2014 and continues to this day.
"An interactive computer game is described which works in conjunction with a number of physical modules that a user can connect together in different ways to form a coherent physical whole object," the patent's abstract read.
"The game receives data from the object via a wireless link, the data identifying at least which modules form part of the object and updates game play based on the data received. At some point within the game play, the game presents an objective or goal to the user which the user can only achieve by interacting with the physical object formed from the modules. In an embodiment, this interaction comprises re-arranging the modules or swapping modules to form an object with a different visual appearance, moving all or part of the object and/or interacting with a sensor on a module in the object. The game may receive further data from the object during the user interaction."
We've reached out to Microsoft for this story but have not heard back at the time of publication.