SAN FRANCISCO: Pinball and slot machine wizard Joe Kaminkow is working his magic on the social games scene pioneered by Zynga and taking Facebook users along the yellow-brick road as his opening move.
Kaminkow and his small team at startup Spooky Cool Labs got a blessing from Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment to make “Wizard of Oz” game for play at the leading social network complete with clips from the classic film.
“We’re proud to have created such an immersive experience based on the greatest, most-watched movie in history,” Kaminkow said. “Players get to enjoy interacting with Dorothy, Glinda The Good Witch, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and all of the other characters people have loved for years.”
Players land in a 3-D world, in the role of the Dorothy character made famous by Judy Garland, to find their virtual farmhouse has crash-landed atop a wicked witch in Munchkinland.
The thrust of the game is to build a thriving Munchkin town with happy little residents and then pave a yellow-brick road that leads to Dorothy’s tin and lion cohorts, and the Emerald City of Oz.
“You aren’t just building a city; there is an adventure to go on down the road,” said Spooky Cool Labs chief creative officer Brian Eddy. “We expect people to be playing this for months and months to get to the Tin Man, then the Lion,” he continued. “This game could easily go on years.”
Game industry veterans at the Chicago-based startup wove in winning elements of console play such as side missions and being able to navigate the virtual world from any angle including a first-person perspective called “munchkin-cam.”
“We have great respect for companies like Zynga that pioneered the space but we wanted to reset the genre and make something more compelling, based on better technology,” Kaminkow said with a nod to titles such as ‘FarmVille.’ The number of players has climbed quickly since “The Wizard of Oz” game opened to the public in test mode at the start of November. It had been downloaded more than 100,000 times at Facebook as of Saturday.
Kaminkow’s legacy stretches back decades to the glory days of pinball arcades with a long list of creations that included machines themed after blockbuster films “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park.” He was inducted into the Pinball Hall of Fame in 2004. The launch of The Wizard of Oz online at apps.facebook.com/wozgame was timed to coincide with the celebration of the film’s 75th anniversary.
The game industry reputations of Kaminkow and his Spooky Cool partner Larry DeMar were cited as the reasons Warner trusted them to make a game based on the film.
The Oz game is free to play.