Who doesn’t love old-school arcades? Those pinging and beeping sounds coupled with the flashing lights and the chance to win amazing (dollar-store) prizes—nostalgic perfection! For the latest digitally savvy generation, however, Cartoon Network is digitizing the arcade experience delivering the fun directly to kids on their phones.
Launching on March 11 exclusively in the US, the (aptly named) Cartoon Network Arcade app will feature new mobile games for popular shows The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time, Ben 10, Steven Universe and We Bare Bears. Beyond just combining all of its properties into one central experience, CN Arcade also has new technology that integrates linear TV with the digital experience, allowing users to unlock and collect playable characters based off what they see on screen. It uses automatic content recognition, a technology which, in this case, listens to the audio of any show on Cartoon Network and can match it against a database of content and reward players accordingly. It will be available for free in the App Store and on Google Play.
For example, if players are watching an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball while using Cartoon Network Arcade, it will give players one of five characters from the franchise to use in the apps’ Gumball’s Block Party (pictured) game. In it, characters climb as high as they can to stay ahead of collapsing blocks.
“We’re always looking for different kinds of game experiences we can give our audiences,” says Chris Waldron, the VP of Cartoon Network digital products and games. “For us, it was how do we take this app and make it the more active parallel experience to the passive experience of watching television, in a way that will appeal to the gamer in all of our fans.”
To compliment the CN properties, The LEGO Group has signed on as a launch partner for the app. There are no LEGO games or integrated content within the app, but on behalf of LEGO players will get an exclusive figure from one of CN’s shows, to jump start their collection, once downloaded.
CN will continue to develop the app with more activities and properties, including quests for unique characters tied to CN’s broadcasting events, and will give players the opportunity to vote on what games and figures they want to see next.
Waldron says the app is an extension of what Cartoon Network did with its MagiMobile app, made to promote the show Mighty Magiswords. MagiMobile also recognized audio from the series, allowing players to unlock different swords for use in the game, with the goal of watching all of the episodes. When CN saw how well that app worked with audiences, it expanded the concept more broadly, and Cartoon Network Arcade was born.
While there were concerns that incorporating a second screen would split kids’ attention too much, it wasn’t enough to stem Arcade’s development.
“We found the app was a low-impact interactive experience,” says Waldron. “I could press the button, it would hear the show, I would get my collectible and then I can go back to watching the show. For us, that was the perfect balance of what that second screen could be—it didn’t disrupt your video watching and it was your choice how much further you wanted to go into the app while watching television.”