Coffee Talk #414: Skylanders — Brilliant, Evil, or Both?

I’ve started playing Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures for a review. I’m completely fascinated by the Skylanders business model. For those of you not familiar with the deal, Skylanders is an action-RPG available for most…

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I’ve started playing Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventures for a review. I’m completely fascinated by the Skylanders business model. For those of you not familiar with the deal, Skylanders is an action-RPG available for most videogame systems. What makes it unique is that it uses toys to enhance and unlock gameplay. The $69.99 starter kit comes with the game, the “Portal of Power” accessory that plugs into your console, and three action figures. Additional action figures can be purchased for $7.99 and up.

Now here’s the kicker: from what I’ve seen, you have to buy more toys to get everything out of the game. That’s brilliant…and possibly a little evil. So far, the game is surprisingly fun; I had low expectations for it and they have been greatly exceeded. The toys look cool. On their own, I’m not sure they’re worth $8 each or $20 for a three-pack, but considering that they unlock in-game features, they’re pragmatic as well as decorative. There are more than 30 toys, with more action figures and DLC on the way, so it’s entirely possible to spend hundreds of dollars on Skylanders…and I’m sure some kids will do just that.

Fascinating, hey? I’m not really sure what kids and tweens like these days, but I imagine Skylanders is going to be hugely popular this holiday season. While most of the videogame business has been focusing on DLC and $10 online solutions to make more money of off each title, Activision is probably going to strike gold with dollies action figures. If this game does well, can you imagine a Transformers, Pokemon, or Disney game using a similar business model? This dolly thing could be huge…and more than a little exploitative.

Anyway, I wanted to see what you thought about Skylanders and its business model. Is Skylanders brilliant, evil, or both?!?

Author: RPadTV


17 thoughts on “Coffee Talk #414: Skylanders — Brilliant, Evil, or Both?”

  1. If i ever buy happy meal toys for 8 bucks to unlock in game video game content, please come steal all my money

  2. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea … especially considering the target audience. First off, you’ve got to give it to Activision for putting together a real cross-platform DLC. Buy a figure to use on the PS3, for example, and you can use it for the 3DS too. More importantly, for the younger kiddies, they’ve got something they can actually put their hands on and play with when they’re not “plugged in”.

    You asked what if Pokemon did something like this … well, don’t they do it already? There are entire rows of Toys R Us dedicated to Pokemon toys. The only thing missing would be codes to actually add the pokemon you bought into your game. They are even codes in the newest Marvel Super Hero Squad toys to add exclusive new characters to the Super Hero Squad Online game. Skylanders simply followed suit and maintains all the licensed goodies under one roof.

    And yeah, I’ll be getting some more of the figures myself come the weekend.

    1. The difference is that you don't need Pokemon toys to play the main game. Imagine if you did?!? That would suck for my wallet…and millions of other Pokemon fans' wallets.

      1. True, you don't "need" them (though the whole "Gotta catch 'em all!" tagline suggests otherwise to kids) … but you DO still get some of the figures with the starter. Plus, 32 figures (minus the ones in the basic set) is still a hell of a lot less to pick up than most collectible card/miniature games

        I don't know … maybe it's the time I spend running the comic shop back in the day and selling all those Magic/Pokemon/Buffy/Doomtown/OverPower/Vs./Ani-Mayhem/etc. cards, but the business model seems sound to me. And it's especially good business sense for the holidays (assuming the property strikes the right chord at retail).

        Better example still is the Mage Knight/HeroClix stuff. Sure, you CAN play with the starter, but you always want to get more/better stuff. At least this way, you're not buying a pig in a poke. Kids can play the game in the starter and then pick up exactly.

  3. 100% sheer marketing genius. Do I like it, no I don't, we already pay enough for games and instead of wasting all that time on extending the game, how bout Activision get some new IPs out.

  4. This also reminds me of Monster Rancher (MR), but with MR you could put in any disc into your PS1 and it would give you a monster. My parents were DJs back in the day so we had massive amounts of CDs laying around, I wonder what determined what monster you would get.

  5. Oh Jeez… If Game Freak ever gets wind of this, I'll be the marketing apocalypse for Pokemon games.

    Imagine having to buy toy Pokemons to unlock special moves or attributes or sperm (or whatever it is they do with them now). Even worse; what if you actually had to BUY the toy Pokemon to unlock it in the game, but they spread the distribution of the toys out unevenly throughout the globe?! People like Mr. Padilla and Bsukenyan would actually turn into actual Pokemon hunters, scouring the globe trying to find that elusive "Crapgallia" that was only shipped to South Africa.


    1. that's what I was thinking at first, buying a specific pokemon doll/figure would unlock a special form of that pokemon. that could make collecting special event pokemon a lot more interesting, but if they did anything along these lines then they would have to seriously increase the PC size allowed in the game.

    2. ps- if they actually spread out the toys evenly throughout a given region, it could be cool to get special pokemon or DLC by travelling to new places (which is totally in accordance with one theme of the game). Instead I think we would have another epidemic on the scale of Beanie Babies on our hands. People would be selling those things like crazy on eBay to people in different regions—for a very jacked up price that is.

  6. My son has had a PC game like this, but I can't remember the name and the toys are available at the 99 cent store.

    If I remember, I'll update this.

  7. My brother and sister play Webkins, which is very similar to this business model. They have to buy the dolls and enter the corresponding code online to get that animal in their online game (which they also have to pay for each month). So if they do this, plenty of other kids will easily pay a lot of their parent's money for Skylanders.

    I actually wouldn't mind if Pokemon did something along these lines, but I would need them to make some of the Pokemon branded items less kid-only. Just yesterday I was commenting on a forum somewhere that it's too bad that Pokemon is made for kids only in the US, compared to Japan. Pretty sure it was about a comparison of the Japanese version of the tv show to the US version. I understand that kids are the major demographic for the game, but I think some of that is due to marketing only to a younger demographic.

    Like I said in my reply to Iceman, if something like this was done for Pokemon they would have to increase the PC size. In my HeartGold version I have 3 boxes filled with Legendaries and events. 1 box filled with dittos. And in Gen 5 with over 650 pokemon, if you really want to catch 'em all you need to have a lot of space in your PC. Then if you want to breed any Pokemon you need doubles of some pokemon, and room to hold all of the new pokemon. Also, Pokemon could get even more tricky if the dolls/DLC had special abilities attached to them just as the DreamWorld does. No matter what, if Game Freak and the Pokemon Company used this business model they would need to make some in game changes first, and I would need to prepare to spend a lot of money…

  8. I think it's brilliant. Plus it kinda gives kids something to play with offline especially when the PSN is down. I saw it yesterday at target but I had no idea what bundle the target associate was holding. It certainly is interesting. I'm surprised that Nintendo didn't think of this first.

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