Sony Pictures

Pixels Arcaders Games :: Case Study

Sony Pictures goes back to the golden age of video games in their Summer 2015 release, Pixels, an action-packed “humanity vs. aliens” shoot ‘em up comedy that takes its cue from the most beloved arcade games of the 1980s. Mistaking a space capsule “human culture” archive of video games as a coded declaration of war, aliens attack Earth—using the games as battle blueprints. The heroes of the piece—the Arcaders—are video game buffs from the 80’s who must channel their skills playing Pac-Man, Arkanoid, Tetris and other classics in order to save humankind.

AvatarLabs conceived and developed three original arcade-style games—the memory testing “Pixel Predictor,” the Centipede-inspired “Light Blaster” and the infinite runner “Reaction Zone”—which honor the movie’s retro roots and draw players deep into the world of the film. Cast as a recruiting test to find people with the right skills to join the team that will save Earth, these engaging and share-worthy games — housed in classic arcade cabinets within a simulator-style training room — bring forth a distinctive 80’s feel, with addictive gameplay, bright colors and classic arcade sounds (all created by our in-house team).

The production of these games presented a number of technical challenges. We wanted them to look and play like the classic arcade games of old, but delivered through browsers via native HTML. We needed to figure out the optimal balance between the gameplay mechanics, physics, and visuals to provide an engaging experience for the players across desktop, tablet and mobile. The endless runner game, “Reaction Time”, was particularly challenging on this front given the faux 3D into-the-screen gameplay perspective. We were able to achieve optimal performance through a flexible and data-driven game engine and deliver a polished final product.

A global leaderboard keeps track of the highest scores (hearkening back to classic arcade games) while players are awarded badges for successfully completing each game. Players that earn all three badges are rewarded with a fourth, exclusive ARCADER badge (all shareable on Facebook and Twitter).

These desktop, tablet and mobile-friendly teaser games were a hit domestically, and were localized for international release in multiple markets.