Interview

Things3D on why its 3D printing platform will improve your game's longterm retention and monetisation

Things3D on why its 3D printing platform will improve your game's longterm retention and monetisation

There's plenty of interest in the potential of 3D printing to shake up the entire manufacturing industry.

Some people would have you believe that one day in the not-too-distant future we'll all have our very own replicators humming away in the corner of the living room.

But according to Joe Wee, co-founder of Things3D, the state of technology means that current home 3D printing is more like getting a bread-making machine for your birthday.

"You use it once, then put it at the back of cupboard," he jokes.

Another dimension

Together with Chris Byatte, Wee was a co-founder of mobile game publisher Chillingo.

Finding success in the an early App Store era with games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, the pair sold out to EA in 2010, leaving the company in early 2014.

"We've been watching the 3D printing space for a long time," says Byatte.

Chris Byatte (l), and Joe Wee

"It didn't take long before we got bored [post-EA/Chillingo], and starting thinking of what to do next."

The result is Things3D, a small UK start-up that's funded by Byatte and Wee, but which has big plans in terms of leveraging the power of custom-printed physical objects in an increasing digital world.

Cracking figure, Gromit

It's just launched its first products - a limited edition series of figures from Aardman Animations.

Ranging from Wallace & Gromit to Shaun the Sheep and Morph - and priced from $90-$250 - in one way these are fairly traditional hard resin 3D-printed characters.

A new element, however, is the part provides Thing3D with its mission statement - "Smart 3D-Printed Collectibles" - a unique code contained in a figure's base. It's something about which Thing3D has a number of pending patents.

Thing3D's platform has launched with Aardman's Wallace and Gromit

This not only provides the anti-counterfeit aspect to the limited-edition collection (100 of each figures), but via NFC and a companion mobile app, the code also enables buyers to register their figures and access additional information such as historic photos and unique videos.

"We're derisking the model for brands, as well as unlocking new business models and creating new ways for companies and fans to engage together," says Wee.

Your game, your character

As with 3D-printing itself, the future opportunities for these interactions is very wide.

For example, game developers could fully integrate these physical characters into their games, with players scanning them to unlock easter eggs, get custom push notifications, or even act as a VIP membership, say gaining them regular drops of in-game currency.

The first game to hook up with Things3D is Yippee's Chimpact

Thing3D has plenty of ideas, but looking to others to maximise the potential, it's released a SDK (currently in closed beta) so game and app developers can choose how they integrate the Things3D platform and figures into their products.

"The problem with game merchandising is it's not related to the game experience," says Byatte.

For example, while early uses of the technology will likely be printing out pre-designed characters, there's no reason players can't print out their actual in-game characters, complete with the uniform, armour, weapons, items, pets etc etc they have collected during their game experiences.

Going a step further, these experiences could also be 'saved' via the Things3D platform, enabling players to have a physical representation of a virtual character that could be taken between games.

Or perhaps even sold.

Secondary market

Within games, the ownerships rights of players has always been a controversial issue, no matter what the End Users Licence Agreement states.

For Wee, however, the combination of a physical object and a cloud-based authentication system means that, should they want, developers can now open up this secondary market, with developers, users and Things3D all taking their share of transactions.

It's something that might be particularly lucrative in RPG and strategy games in which players spend hundreds of hours and dollars building up characters and bases, although it will no doubt generate some interesting issues in terms of game design and in-game balancing.

You can find out more about Things3D via its website and online store. 

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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