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Video Games Characters Get Physical with 3D Prints
Posted by 3DP4E

By Victor Anusci | All 3D Printing

Why you should read this: to understand how 3D printing is becoming an entertainment medium, making video game more physical and toys smarter.

Just like video games never fully replaced books, movies and other media that came before them, and in many cases expanded on them by offering a new mean of expression for their stories, 3D printing is offering video game based intellectual properties (IP) a new area to explore. At the same time it is offering video game developers and publishers a new way to monetize on their creations and to fans a new way to enjoy their favorite characters.

Wallace&Gromit is the first property signed by Things3D to 3D print (image: Things3D)

Made by gamers for gamers

Start up Things3D is arguably one of the best representations of this trend. Founded by the same people that were behind Chillingo, the company that published the very first version of Angry Birds, the biggest mobile game of all time (back when mobile games were still a tiny segment of the video game industry), Things3D wants to help the developers of any video game create smart and connected action figures that can interface with their mobile or vide games.

In doing so, Things3D is playing into another powerful trend in mainstream video games: that of physicalization. Giant video game publisher such as Activision and Disney have already created smart action figures for their huge properties, Spyro the Dragon and Disney Infinity. Since there are multi-million dollar properties, they were prototyped with 3D printing produced by traditional and costly injection molding manufacturing technologies.

While the current offer includes important movie and TV properties such as Shaun the Sheep and Wallace & Gromit, in the future it will be possible and cost effective even to produce the action figures in smaller numbers, thus making it possible for the fan of any game to enjoy it in a more “real” way.

Things3D is a high-end service which can be ascribed to the 4D gaming category, that is 3D printed toys interacting with each other in a gaming environment, something we are likely going to see a lot more of in the future.

The smart 3D printed characters will be able to interact with mobile and video games (image: Things3D)

3D Print directly from your game

Another similar service is FabZat, which offers a more immediate way to “get physical” with video games. The FabZat system can be integrated into any mobile App game for smartphone and tablet, allowing players to customize their favorite game character and get them 3D printed. Several games have already implemented FabZat’s in-App custom merchandising shop system. These include popular app games such as Graal online and even Minecraft which, as a matter of fact, has been the very first games to be “materialized” through a variety of community based projects.

FabZat let you edit you character and buy the 3D printed version within the game (image: FabZat)

Minecraft’s Lego-like nature is ideal for 3D printable projects. In fact, Minecraft itself could be considered a 3D modeling tool and there are softwares which allow you to export items in a 3D printable format. Autodesk’s free online 3D modeling software allows you to export your creations both as a 3D printable stl file or as a blockified Minecraft item.

Repositories for gaming characters

Another approach is that implemented by Toyze, an iOS and Android App which simply lets you create and customize character from popular video games, such as Talking Tom and Friends, The Tribes and Pou, and get it 3D printed through iMaterialise. The most popular franchise included in Toyze from the very beginning is Cut the Rope. Zeptolab, the company that created it supported Toyze from the very beginning and continues to do so.

It seems that some of the larger video game publisher still somewhat fear 3D printing as a possible competitor for everyone’s most treasured commodity, that is people’s time.

Still, the synergies between video game’s virtual 3D and 3D printing are obvious and we are going to see a lot more video game characters getting physical in the future. Whether the owners of their copyrights chose to play along or not.

The Toyze App has been downloaded 350.000 time and 1 million models have been created (image: Toyze)


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