China Toy Fair


Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare Is Now Available on PC

June24 plants vs zombiesPopCap Games, a division of Electronic Arts Inc., has launched Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare for PC on Origin and retailers worldwide. Players choose a side and square off in combat against plant or zombie opponents, utilizing an arsenal of outrageous weaponry. Character favorites from the franchise such as Sunflower and Chomper reprise their roles, and the game also introduces new characters such as Ice Cactus and All-Star Zombie.

Players also get to play new free game content, including the Garden Variety Pack and Zomboss Down.

Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare features four distinct game play modes, including 2 to 4 player co-op, 12 vs. 12 competitive multiplayer called Gardens & Graveyards and Team Vanquish, and eight vs. eight Gnome Bomb. Players can also use Jewel Junction, a new multiplayer map. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Video Game-Based Toys Can Ease Kids into Other Kinds of Play

KNEX.SuperMarioDesertIt’s summertime, which for a lot of kids means playing outside in the sunshine, swimming, and maybe even going on trips to visit nature. But for others, summer means staying indoors and playing video games all day. It’s probably best to moderate any activity that involves staring at a screen; however, the question is, how to get video game-obsessed kids to take up a different form of play? The answer may be toys based on popular video game titles, and there are quite a few of those available right now.

We kick off our non-comprehensive list with K’NEX, which since 2010, has partnered with Nintendo on construction toys based on its popular Mario property. Recently, I spoke to an executive at the company, who said that no small part of the partnership’s success came from replicating game elements in K’NEX’s construction sets: For example, many of its Super Mario building sets have a mechanism that simulates the avatar’s in-game jumping ability. [Read more...]

Madden NFL 15 Kicks Off in August

Madden15Electronic Arts Inc.’s Madden NFL 15 will be available on August 26 in North America and on August 29 in the EU for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Developed by EA Tiburon, Madden NFL 15 features the most immersive defensive game play control in the franchise’s history. Fans will also experience a broadcast presentation with new camera angles, pre-game, and halftime features.

Fans to Choose Newest Playable Scrabble Word

MERRIAM-WEBSTER INC. SCRABBLE DICTIONARY APPScrabble and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are updating the The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary for the first time in nine years. On top of the thousands of words that are planned to be added, a new word will be nominated and chosen by fans during the Scrabble Word Showdown. Fans can submit their suggestions to the Hasbro Game Night Facebook page, where 16 words will be chosen for fans to cast their votes.

The final word will be chosen on April 10 and will be included in the 5th edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, available in August and across digital platforms later this year from Electronic Arts.

PopCap Launches Peggle 2 for Xbox One

PopCap logoPopCap, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. has launched Peggle 2, available exclusively for Microsoft’s Xbox One. Peggle 2, a sequel to the original puzzle game, has tons of new features and is available from the Xbox Live Games Stores.

Key features of this game include five Peggle Masters, each with multiple costumes, 60 all-new gameplay levels, 60 all-new trials, 180 objectives, achievements and  1,000G to collect, Peg Party mode for multiplayer fun, high-definition graphics and orchestral audio specific to each Master, and Kinect gesture and voice commands for in-game and menu controls in some markets.

EA Releases The Sims 3 Into the Future, Plans The Sims 4 for 2014

SimsIntotheFutureThe Sims 3 Into the Future Expansion Pack, from Electronic Arts Inc. for PC and Mac, is now available at retailers across North America and on origin.com. This time, Sims have broken through the space and time continuum to meet their descendants, play with technologies of tomorrow, and change the destiny of their entire world. Set against the backdrop of the new world of Oasis Landing, Sims discover new adventures when they travel back and forth between the future and present worlds. Players, meanwhile, have the option of blazing a trail towards Utopia, or charting a Dystopian course and leading the Sims into a state of desolation.

In related news, The Sims 4 will ship worldwide next fall. The new game brings new ways to play with life, powerful new creative tools, Sims with enhanced emotion and intelligence, and more. Pre-orders are available at www.TheSims.com/TheSims4, and those who pre-order will receive the limited edition, which comes with The Sims 4 Life of the Party digital content.

Electronic Arts Reaches Proposed Settlement with Student Athletes

On Thursday, attorneys representing student athletes who claim Electronic Arts (EA) illegally used student-athletes’ likenesses in the company’s popular NCAA Football video games confirmed they have reached a proposed settlement.

The settlement covers claims made in cases by former players Sam Keller and Ed O’Bannon against EA, along with cases by former players Shawne Alston and Ryan Hart, but must be approved by the court. The amount and other terms are confidential pending a court filing.

EA and attorneys for the student-athletes reached the settlement after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the proposed class-action lawsuit in an attempt by EA to dismiss the case. The ruling remanded the case to U.S. District Court, allowing attorneys for the plaintiffs to seek class certification. The settlement with EA will allow attorneys to focus on claims against the NCAA, which has not settled. [Read more...]

SimCity Cities of Tomorrow Expansion Pack Coming in November

SimCityCOTElectronic Arts is developing a SimCity Cities of Tomorrow expansion pack for Mac and PC that will be arriving on November 12. The expansion lets players transform their cities as they take a journey 50 years into the future, and to shape them using new technologies and experimental urban planning techniques.

Players will have the option of creating a utopian society underpinned by clean technology under the auspices of the Academy, or to encourage OmegaCo, a giant corporation, to strip-mine natural resources and pollute. Meanwhile, for the first time in the franchise’s history, cities can be built vertically with enormous, multi-zone MegaTowers that extend high into the sky.

Education and research are also factors in the game, and can help players discover new technologies that make their cities less polluted, less reliant on natural resources, managed day-to-day by service drones, and fueled by green energy. Whenever players have finished deciding whether they want their Sims living together in harmony, they can unleash new disasters exclusive to the expansion pack.

Since its launch in March, SimCity has had seven major game updates. SimCity Cities of Tomorrow will be available for Mac and PC, and is not yet rated. Pre-orders will begin soon at www.SimCity.com.

COMMENTARY: Licensed NFL Games Bring All the Gridiron Action Home

It’s nearing September, which means the start of the 2013 to 2014 NFL season. Among the major American sports, professional football very easily rates near the top; however, unlike baseball or basketball, the NFL is only broadcast three days a week. This raises the question: What to do on those other days when the ol’ pigskin classic isn’t scheduled to be played? With a little help from the National Football League itself, we have your perfect solution: two officially-licensed NFL board games, plus one NFL video game super-sequel that just hit stores.

NFL GameDayThe first board game up is NFL Game Day from Fremont Die, in which two players (or two teams of players) take turns attempting to score points or stop the other team from scoring. The length of a football field is approximated on a neat magnetic board, and the game features magnetic pieces as well as cards for offensive, defensive, and special teams plays. For the most part, game play revolves around one side plunking down an offensive card, while the other side puts down a defensive card at the same time. Depending on which cards are played, the possibilities range from a five-yard gain to something much bigger, no gain to a huge loss in yardage, or even a turnover.

The game play mechanics are straightforward enough that even football novices can pick them up quickly; however, if you already fancy yourself an expert on football strategy, NFL Game Day has the bonus of effectively putting you in the head coach or offensive/defensive coordinator’s chair. At third-and-five, will you run for the first down, go for a short pass, or opt for the play-action? If you’re on the defensive side, do you play the pass or the run, or maybe even go for an all-out blitz?

NFL Rush ZoneA slightly different, but no less compelling football experience awaits NFL diehards and laypeople courtesy of NFL Rush Zone from Techno Source. Like NFL Game Day, it features a game board with customizable end zones for all 32 teams (and plastic uprights that don’t serve a practical purpose, but look pretty cool), but the game mechanics are dice-based rather than card-based. Each side rolls three dice representing a complete set of downs, but if the total of the defense’s dies is higher than the offense’s, it becomes fourth down and the latter must decide between punting, kicking a field goal, or going for the conversion.

If NFL Game Day represents the coach’s point-of-view, NFL Rush Zone is more like the spectator’s. The mechanics are such that despite being active participants, much of what happens on the field is left to chance; any series of downs can go really well or terribly wrong, and it’s difficult to strategize based on the random rolling of three die. Events will transpire as they will, and isn’t that exactly what watching an NFL game (or most any sporting event, for that matter) is like?

In the game I was playing, my hometown Miami Dolphins were marching on offense, but then my opponent (the Seattle Seahawks, for those who were wondering) got a defensive takeaway by rolling three of a kind. They subsequently scored a touchdown and won, at which point, like any true fan and viewer, I called for the Fins’ head coach to be fired and the team sold to parties based out of Los Angeles. Perhaps NFL Rush Zone represents football from the perspective of the team owner as well?

MaddenNFL25Actually, if any licensed NFL product lets users step into the luxury wing tips of their typical franchise owners, it’s most likely EA SportsMadden NFL 25, the latest installment in the video game franchise. It arrived on August 27 for the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, and Playstation 3. New features include an “Owner Mode,” which lets gamers run the organization top to bottom, doing everything from selecting players to setting the prices of concessions, to upgrading the team’s stadium. It’s an intriguing form of escapism—running a corporation worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Madden NFL 25 retains the more traditional game play mode in which users control avatars of their favorite players, and this time around, the simulated action has an unprecedented level of smoothness and detail.

With these licensed games, NFL fans should be able to get their fix well beyond the coming football season.

For more commentary from Phil, check back often. Views expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Toy Book as a whole. We hope that you will share your comments and feedback below. Until next time!

Madden NFL 25 Writers Celebrate Game’s Launch with 25-Hour Gaming Marathon

madden-25-release-date-tileTwo official game guide writers, Stephen “SGibs” Gibbons and Zach “ZFarls” Farley, for the upcoming Madden NFL 25 will be playing the new game for 25 straight hours leading up to its launch on August 27. The authors are scheduled to begin playing Madden NFL 25 on Monday at 11 p.m. EST. The marathon gaming session will be viewable online at www.twitch.tv/maddentips.

The two will take on virtual challenges from professional athletes, including Ryan Hollins of the L.A. Clippers, select media, and developers for the game’s publisher EA Sports.

Gibbons and Farley write for Prima Games, an imprint of Random House LLC. They had spent several months in Orlando, Fla., working with EA Sports developers and learning the nuances of the new game.