But first, some background. WildTangent ships between six and thirty games with each new Dell, Toshiba or HP/Compaq (with more deals to come). They also ship a console, which in this case means a window that will pop up on request and lead you to your new computer’s games, plus links to all the other games that WildTangent publishes. (The newest console includes parental lock features.)
All but a couple of these games are Try & Buy, with nothing held back. Even if you just want to try the game out, you get access to the complete game (not a basic or demo version, minus most of the bells and whistles). And where most trial versions with other companies are restricted to an hour of play, you can play any WildGame twice, for as long as you want, as long as you keep playing. Stop for more than 45 minutes, and that play is over. (And you can’t play more than 24 hours at a time, but I really hope that isn’t a significant drawback for most of you.)
After your second play, you’ve got to pay to play it any more. You get a choice on how to pay — you can pay a small amount (usually 25 cents, but up to $1.50 for some games) for another single play. Or you can pay $20 for unlimited play. (As with most other features described here, this isn’t absolute — $20 isn’t the cost of every game, but nearly all of them.)
But how can WildTangent make any money on a 25-cent transaction, especially after processing fees? That’s where WildCoins come in. Introduced a couple months ago, WildCoins have proven an immediate success, according to Selle.
You maintain an account of WildCoins, which generally run four to the dollar. (Various discounts can lower that cost.) You don’t even have to register a credit card or pay any money, if you can get hold of WildCoins any other way. For example, Coca-Cola’s “My Coke Rewards” program includes WildCoins that you can deposit in your WildGames account.
You use the WildCoins in your account to pay for play sessions. One account “refills” to 40 WildCoins when you get down to 8. Another adds a given number of WildCoins each month, at a 20% or 30% discount. If you pay for a few individual sessions before buying a game, you get a discount on the game price equal to half the WildCoins you’ve spent playing it. (Spend 20 WildCoins — $5 — on a game, and you reduce the purchase price by half that, or $2.50.)
If you’re playing one of your two free sessions, you’ll find advertising as you play. Anytime you’ve paid to play (either for a single session or by buying the game), the advertising is deleted.
What kind of games does WildGames include? They’re divided into five categories: Action, Arcade, Puzzle, Sports and Word. For the most part, these aren’t multiplayer games, but there are contests where you’re competing to rack up the high score. Winners get recognition, and the top 100 (or so) players are equally eligible for the prizes, which include cash and gift cards. WildTangent doesn’t automatically award the top player the prize, because they want most players to have a chance at the prize — generally, with good play and good luck, you might crack the top 100, but only a handful of players have a realistic shot at the highest score, regardless of the game.
WildTangent does have a few multiplayer games, and they are breaking new ground with the upcoming inclusion of RuneScape, the vastly popular British massive online game. (They’re still working out the details of monthly payments to play a game.)
Selle is particularly proud of two games that WildStudios developed this year. In Penguins, released this summer, Ace, the zoo’s star penguin, has escaped, and the other penguins are off to find him. That includes escaping themselves, and avoiding the zookeeper. Your job is to find a way for the penguins to navigate each screen. It’s got aspects of The Incredible Machine and Lemmings. Nearly all the machinations and gadgets are designed to get the penguins airborne. (As Selle put it, “these are flightless birds in denial.”) He says that kids love it, even if they don’t know how to accomplish anything. His two-year-old daughter sits in his lap at the computer and begs him to keep playing.
Blasterball 3 is the continuation of WildStudio’s most successful series. It has sold millions, and BB3 looks to continue that trend. Available in November, it suggests to me Breakout on drugs. You’ve got a paddle at the bottom of the screen, and you’re using it to knock out a barrier of bricks at the top of the screen. That’s pretty straightforward, but there are more than enough special bricks in the barrier to make life interesting.
In addition to the boosted gameplay that you expect from the next in a series, BB3 includes the ability to loop your own music during play and an exceptionally easy level editor. You can design your own levels and ship them off to friends. You can even submit them to WildTangent, which will periodically collect all the best submissions and release them as a free expansion pack.
In the crowded casual games market, it’s difficult to stand out from the pack. WildTangent accomplishes this, both with its individual game designs and its novel marketing tactics.
I like to analyze and optimize while playing games, so I much prefer games that require thought rather than action.
Evie is twelve years old and is an avid reader, especially of fantasy. Favorite authors include J.K. Rowling (of course), Brian Jacques, Cornelia Funke and Tamora Pierce. These reviews are her first published writing.
Will is nine years old and loves to investigate, especially dinosaurs and astronomy. These reviews are also his first published writing.
Jesse is seven years old and has just started reading chapter books. He likes Hank the Cowdog and cartoon books, especially Calvin & Hobbes, Baby Blues and Donald Duck.
If you're interested in the (roughly) thousand-year-old triceratops stone in our pic, check out the Dino Art. Some of the accompanying text can be a bit strident, but it's still a puzzle why Central and South American Indians knew pretty precisely what dinosaurs looked like over a thousand years ago.