Since Skylanders hit the market in 2011, the toys-to-life market has exploded.
Disney joined the sector in 2013 with Infinity, while Nintendo launched Amiibo the following year. Then in 2015, Warner Bros released LEGO Dimensions.
Between them, these four giants have access to some of the most iconic brands out there – Mario, Batman, Star Wars, Marvel... the list goes on – and was worth 129m in 2015.
But now five-man indie studio Sensible Object is trying to launch into the sector with its mobile toys-to-life title, Fabulous Beasts.
What we saw from indie games in the software space was that there was plenty of room for games that appeal to a slightly different audience,” founder Alex Fleetwood tells MCV.
It's different from the mainstream, big, corporate product. Fabulous Beasts is coming from a slightly different place and has a slightly different spirit. It also really helps that we're a small team out there advocating passionately on behalf of our gaming product. We don't have any big movie tie-ins to connect our game to, but we do have the passion and enthusiasm of a team that really cares about the game that it's making. What we believe is that the indie hardware game space has just as much opportunity to grow and thrive as the software space has.”
"Fabulous Beasts is approaching toys-to-life from
a slightly different place with a slightly different spirit."
Alex Fleetwood, Sensible Object
The title is certainly an interesting twist on the toys-to-life genre, integrating Jenga-like stacking elements to the mix. And unlike most toys-to-life releases, Fabulous Beasts isn't intended primarily for kids.
We're aiming at adults who are spending money on toys-to-life,” Fleetwood explains. A lot of these products are well beyond pocket money range. There is a fairly significant segment of toys-to-life which is adult collectors – that number goes up if you look at Amiibo.
Table top gamers have responded well to the depth of the gameplay, the sophisticated way we have integrated the digital and physical elements of the game, the design-quality of the Artefacts [figures, pictured] in the game. They see it as something really cool that they want to add to their board game collection.
Design-conscious parents are also interested. There's lots of discussion and debate around screen time for kids, what kinds of play experiences can be suitable for the whole family and really social. And that consumer really sees this as a game that has more of a real-world play experience than most of the comparable toys-to-life games. It's something really valuable to them.”
Fabulous Beasts is different enough that it seems like something a publisher would grab up. But Sensible Object turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and smashed its funding goal of 150,000, finishing with 168,360.
The publisher space for indie toys-to-life games doesn't quite exist yet,” Fleetwood says. It's too early to be making those kinds of relationships. More importantly, Kickstarter is an incredible platform both for the kinds of people that we can access globally and the fact that we can raise meaningful revenues there that enable us to commit to our first production run.
Crucially, we can find a really active community of backers and potential players. We're having some really fun and interesting conversations with our backers about possible expansions, different digital game modes, what kinds of beasts they'd like to see in the game. And we're giving an enormous amount of value as developers from that conversation. We've tried to design Fabulous Beasts with the ability to add in content in mind.
We hope to be designing and evolving Fabulous Beasts for a long time to come.”