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HyperScan - RFID Game System from Mattel

A description of the RFID HyperScan game system from Mattel

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Mattel hopes the word "HyperScan" will be on everybody's lips during the 2006 holiday gift-buying season. Here's a look at what HyperScan is and why you might care.

What is HyperScan?

HyperScan is a game system introduced by Mattel at the San Diego Comic Con in July 2006. The game should be widely available in October 2006.

At least initially, HyperScan can fairly be described as a cross between trading card games (TCGs) and video games. It's the first game system to use RFID technology.

What's RFID?

RFID stands for "Radio Frequency Identification" and it's already widely used in non-game settings. Tiny RFID chips can transmit data; manufacturers and retailers use them in packaging to track inventory and help prevent theft and counterfeiting. Some new credit cards use the chips to make payments quicker and easier. In late 2006, RFID chips will be implanted in U.S. passports. They're also used to collect tolls on toll roads.

What can RFID do in a game?

The full answer to that question is not really known yet, since HyperScan is the first system that allows games to use RFID. But I think the possibilities are very exciting.

The HyperScan console allows players to scan RFID-imbedded cards and then play a video game based on the information in those cards. The winner of that video game could then scan his card again -- and that card could be granted new powers.

Looking forward, it's easy to envision board games which use HyperScan to track a lot of information that currently must be tracked by hand. Or to imagine RFID expansions for existing games.

What games can I play with HyperScan?

The first HyperScan game scheduled for release involves the X-Men. (This game will be included with the console.)

Also planned for release in October 2006 are games based on Ben 10 (Cartoon Network), and Mattel's Interstellar Wrestling League. In November 2006, Mattel plans to release a game featuring Marvel Heroes.

Initial news reports indicated that a game based on Avatar (Nickelodeon) would also be available in 2006, but Mattel's press release announcing HyperScan did not include this game.

It's not clear whether other companies will be able to design games for HyperScan (like they can for Playstation, Xbox, etc.).

What makes these cards so special?

RFID chips are built right into the HyperScan cards, which act something like simple flash drives.

According to a Mattel press release, the cards can be permanently enhanced after a victory: "When victory is theirs, players re-scan their cards and their new winning powers are permanently upgraded directly onto their Intellicard for use in future game play."

Each card will be good for "20 to 40 hours of play," according to the Mattel press release.

The cards will be about six times thicker than a traditional trading card.

Is HyperScan portable?

HyperScan requires a television set, so you can play anywhere there's a TV. The console is very small, however, so it's easy to take from place to place.

So I just need the console and some cards?

Almost. In addition to the cards, each game requires a CD-ROM.

How much does HyperScan cost?

The main unit will cost about $70. Each basic game (CD-ROM plus 6 cards) will sell for about $20. Packs of 6 game cards will cost about $10 each.

Is it HyperScan or Hyperscan?

Great question. In stories which broke on the same day introducing the new game system, The New York Times used the uppercase "s" (HyperScan), but the Los Angeles Times used the lowercase "s" (Hyperscan). Later that day, Mattel's official press release used "HyperScan," so The New York Times was correct.

What do you think?

Vote in our poll: What's your first reaction to Mattel's HyperScan?

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