For more than 50 years, kids across the globe have been collecting Hot Wheels cars and challenging each other at races and ramp jumps. Now, in an attempt to take vehicle play to the next level, Mattel innovated a way that kids and Hot Wheels enthusiasts alike can finally put their money where their mouths are: Hot Wheels id, which is, essentially, a Hot Wheels smart car.
What Is Hot Wheels id?
“Over 50 years ago, Hot Wheels innovated vehicle play by creating a performance die-cast toy line with fast-moving axels that let you race and stunt your toy car,” Ron Friedman, Director, Product Management & Global Brand Marketing for Mattel, tells Parentology. “Hot Wheels id is a continuation of that innovation. [It is a project] born from our deep understanding of consumer behavior and long-term research on their evolving trends.”
The concept takes the iconic 1:64-scale diecast vehicles and allows users to download digital versions of them to their phones for mobile play.
“However, we wanted to make sure we were giving kids an experience that didn’t take away from hands-on play, but amplified it,” Friedman explains. “That is the core of what Hot Wheels id is. Hot Wheels id still has the performance play and collectability Hot Wheels is so well known for, but it now also gives kids something they’ve been wanting to do for years: to prove it to the world by measuring their play performance like top speeds, most laps or races won.”
The concept utilizes Near-Field Communication to scan the toy and retrieve the data necessary to create an avatar for it in the digital realm. Each toy comes equipped with a chip along the chassis, and a thin layer of clear plastic provides protection. That chip contains the vehicle’s virtual VIN number and informs you of everything from the series number of the car to how many “miles” it’s raced.
Like with a real vehicle, the id number stays with the car for its entire life. If a racer trades his or her vehicle for another one, loses it or gives it away, the new owner can scan the chip and glean information about the car’s previous activity. Once a person scans a pre-owned vehicle into his or her phone, it disappears from the previous owner’s virtual garage.
Do More with Your Hot Wheels Smart Car
Mattel isn’t stopping at microchips that let you know how many times your toddler raced his or her Batmobile across the kitchen counter. The Hot Wheels id Smart Track Kit features an entirely brand-new track design plus the fastest and most powerful booster of any Hot Wheels track ever made. You can also replicate whatever design you come up with on the screen thanks to the Hot Wheels Race Portal.
Of course, if you don’t want to splurge on the kit just yet, you can hook the portal up to any existing track. This interplay between real life and the digital realm allows you to easily switch between video play and hands-on entertainment without breaking stride.
The virtual game features a garage stacked with the cars you’ve either scanned or earned by leveling up. You can use any to race, crash, jump or compete, or you can participate in challenges that get more difficult as you progress. Along the way, you can collect id coins, which can be traded in for new digital vehicles, vehicle blueprints or vehicle mods. If you’re the proud owner of an exclusive digital car, you may get the opportunity to participate in live events that Mattel plans to host on a global scale.
Why Is Mattel Now Going Digital?
Though Hot Wheels has certainly expanded to include more designs and features since its inception back in 1968, the way you play with them hasn’t changed much, if at all. So, why the change?
“[Our research], which shows that the crossover between digital and physical preference [now happens at age 4 instead of age 7, as it did back in 2013,] tells us that we needed to incorporate digital elements into our products to maintain long-term engagement with our consumers,” Friedman says. “But it was never really about the tech, or about going full-on digital, but about taking the capabilities of digital and what makes digital play so engaging to make our physical products be more attractive for today’s generation of kids.”
For those who wonder if this is just a one-and-done type deal, Friedman assures Parentology it’s not. “It’s a living, breathing platform the brand will continually update and innovate. Launch was just the beginning, and both the app and physical product will continue to be grown and perfected. That is the beauty of a digitally-enhanced product, that we don’t ever stop, that the product can continue to evolve long after we have cut steel or launched the product. This will truly be a live operated platform.”
As for the authenticity of the vehicle, Friedman reassures Hot Wheels enthusiasts it’s not going anywhere.
“We developed an advisory council that included two major collectors – John Lambert and Mike Zarnock – who advised on the line. We wanted to build this toy to be authentic to the collector community and they advised the Hot Wheels team on what should be maintained from the original Hot Wheels line up and what could be amped up. The reaction we have seen so far from the collector community has been phenomenal … It’s very exciting to see how we’ve been able to strike a balance of preserving our essence, while making it all feel new again.”