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P-O-X was introduced through a viral marketing scheme. Hasbro asked kids in Chicago schools, "playgrounds, skate parks and video arcades" who they thought the "coolest kid" was, until they found kids who felt they were "the coolest" themselves, and distributed free copies of the game to them.
P-O-X performed strongly enough in the Chicago market to convince executives major toy retailer Toys R' Us to come on board for a national launch, slated for September 23, 2001, planned to coincide with the start of the Christmas shopping season. Originally, a second phase of the launch had been planned for 9 additional cities in the United States beyond Chicago, but the launch schedule was pushed forward due to the strong support from Hasbro and Toys R' Us executives.
In a case of extreme poor timing, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and subsequent 2001 anthrax attacks raised considerable doubts in the Toys R' Us executive team about the viability of launching a game that prominently featured Earth being attacked by malicious forces that took the form of bug-like viruses that 'infected' their targets. After some focus groups with parents indicated that they [the parents] were uncomfortable with their children playing a game that featured viruses and 'infection', the game was pulled from the market.
There are three different "types" of the game, each released as a differently colored console: the red Spino, green Cycro, and blue Plasmo.
"Spinoblast Violidae" Abilities: Power/Strength/Force Scientists first cataloged this species because the virulent and aggressive tendencies were so pronounced that they immediately struck out at every type of active or passive probe directed at them. The neuromuscular response was measured as a total output of all available energy. The Spinotm infectors all have powerful body parts, which do anything from doubling attack force to defeating an enemy in one blow.
"Cycrocyte Violidae" Abilities: Speed/Agility/Stealth This species was harder to classify because its movement is so fast and agile it only appears as a visual smear on the scanners. A pheromone trace program and frame rate adjustment of the scanner allowed scientists to finally see them in detail. The Cycrotm are definitely fast, having some body parts that add extra strikes each battle phase, as well as some that stun another infector to allow for cumlative strikes.
"Plasmocid Violidae" Abilities: Deception/Defense/Camouflage The last species was hardest to classify. Originally, there were thought to be only 2 but background disturbances caused by a local battle brought them to our awareness. Natural camouflage adaptations have created a wonderfully complex defensive architecture that includes energy screens and active energy-refracting camouflage. The Plasmotm act more on the defensive line than the offensive, with body parts that generate shields, deflect damage, and even one that cancels an opponent's first attack.
W.A.D. Combat Sequence
Standing for "With, At, Defend," this system allows the player to preprogram nine variables for an oncoming fight with another P-O-X infector. Three choices present themselves for each variable: "H" (head), "B" (body), and "T" (tail). So, with a WAD sequence of: H B T T B H H H H, this would cause the infector to attack the first round with its head, at the opponent's body, and defend against the opponent's attacking body part using its tail. The next two rounds consist of a similar structure, and then the whole thing repeats itself every three rounds. This system proves to be difficult for inexperienced players, but eventually players learn to control their P-O-X and even use that knowledge to their advantage.
Playing the game would require players to either use the wireless function to battle those around them, or use the single-player Arena. Arena gameplay consists of traveling around a sort of maze, fighting different P-O-X along the way (although not collecting body parts from them). At the end of every mazelike level was a container with a new body part in it, and guarding that is the boss, called an overspore. Upon victory against the overspore, the player gains possession of the body part. However, the overspore has as much HP for each bodypart as the player's infector has in its "healthiest" bodypart, making the battle difficult. Each level was named for the bodypart it contained at its end.
- Dykes, Bruce. "POX Handheld Game" article on Street Tech
- Tierney, John. Article about the viral marketing techniques used for P-O-X
- Harvard Business Review Case Study
- Hasbro Instruction booklet/Reference guide to P-O-X