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FEATURE: Activision's toy challenge

Ben Parfitt
FEATURE: Activision's toy challenge

Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure is probably the most retail-friendly game out this Christmas.

It has DLC you can only buy in a shop. When the game talks of cross-platform play, it doesn’t mean online multiplayer  between a 360 and PS3, it means taking your toys round a mate’s house. It’s innovative in an old-fashioned way and has the plastic potential of the sleeping Guitar Hero franchise, minus the required shelf space.

“It is a breakthrough for the game and toy industries and merges the two like never before,” says Activision’s marketing manager Imke Heinrich.  “We have hired the best talent in Hollywood to create Skylanders, with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and a story penned by Toy Story writers Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow.”

Yet this won’t be an easy win for Activision. Toys is an alien market to the firm, and one that hasn’t always been a big fan of games.

Toy Trade

It’s not all about games retail with Skylanders. Activision wants toy stores on-board, too. Toys ‘R’ Us and Argos are fully behind Spyro, but there are many, many indies that still need convincing.

Activision’s Ian McClellan says: “We’d love for all toy stores to retail this kind of innovation. Skylanders is supported through a massive media investment and we hope this will drive consumers in store. Once inside, we have a range of retail options to ensure Skylanders is unmissable – including interactive experiences. This game is about bringing toys to life so we’d encourage stores to have a bit of fun, and this is where the talented staff that run independents can make a difference.”

Toy News editor Sam Loveday believes the challenge in getting indies on board is persuading them to stock a large number of a  higher-end, £59.99 product in a period where they have “pure toys to sell.”

Price Right?

Cost is certainly a key talking point for Skylanders. The starter pack price is £59.99. Yet Activision is confident there’s plenty of value in its product.

“Consumers will always respond to value, and this is what Skylanders has in abundance,” says Heinrich. “We’ve also worked hard to ensure the characters are at pocket-money prices, so kids can collect them all.” Indeed, the key revenue driver for Skylanders could well be the figures - especially as collectables is a market very much on the rise.

Loveday adds: “Collectables have been driving the market since the start of the year ­– things like LEGO Minifigures and Moshi Monsters Blind Packs and Trading Cards.”The Spyro series may be 13 years old, but Skylanders is almost a new IP for Activision. In our time with the game we never saw the titular purple dragon once, and the publisher is heading into an almost unknown territory here. But should the team get this one right, retail will reap the rewards.

WHAT IS SKYLANDERS?

Skylanders is Activision’s bid to resurrect the Spyro franchise. This game is unique in that it uses toys as part of the experience.

A £59.99 Starter Pack features the game, cards, poster, stickers, a portal accessory and three figurines. These figurines represent in-game characters that, when placed on the portal, are playable in-game.

Consumers can then purchase additional toys at £6.99 each (there are 32 in total). These can be levelled up during gameplay and the data is stored on the figurine. Players can take the model to a friends’ house and use it in their game, even if their version is on a different platform.

Outside of the Starter Pack, the monsters can be bought individually or in sets of three. It will launch on Wii, PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and 3DS on October 14th.

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Tags: Activision , video games , spyro , skylanders , toys

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