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Power Rangers and Batman join the battle for the multi-billion pound toys-to-life genre

Christopher Dring
Power Rangers and Batman join the battle for the multi-billion pound toys-to-life genre

A cheaper version of Skylanders featuring Batman, Superman, Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is coming to market.

Toy giant Jakks Pacific will launch its Hero Portal range this August. The portals cost £40 for a starter pack, while toys come in packs of two for £6.99 – well below its rivals. The products plug straight into the TV without the need for a console.

The first toys include DC characters, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with more to follow. “The Hero Portals go straight into the back of the TV and you can play just like you could with Skylanders, but you’re taking out a lot of cost,” said Jakks senior marketing director Ken Goodisson.

“The figures are three and three quarter-inch size, which is standard for any toy in the boys action figure aisle. So in terms of size they are appropriate, and in terms of licenses they are very up-to-date.”

The news follows data from Chart-Track, which reveals that the toys-to-life genre was bigger than ever last year in the UK. Retailers have told MCV that well over half a million toys-to-life games were sold last year.

And that looks likely to continue this year. Just this week Activision revealed its fourth Skylanders project, Trap Team. The game allows kids to play as the villains, and once again it boasts new toys, plus a new Portal of Power that emits sounds and spoken dialogue.

The game is due on October 10th on Wii, Wii U, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC and its announcement comes ahead of the upcoming reveal of Disney Infinity 2.0. The next title in Disney’s franchise will include Marvel characters for the first time, which could mean appearances from Spider-Man, The Avengers and the X-Men.

There is pressure on Skylanders this year, as 2013’s title (Swap Force) did not sell as strongly as its predecessor (Giants). But the game’s developers Toys For Bob – which first invented the genre back in 2011 – believes the changes it has made in Skylanders Trap Team will allow it to continue to lead the genre.

“It is important for us as the leader in the genre to keep pushing the innovation,” said Toys For Bob’s executive producer Jeff Poffenbarger

“We could sit back and say: ‘Ok, we have toys-to-life let’s just continue to do it.’ But we wanted to keep redefining what that innovation is. It’s not like we can look at other people and say: ‘We need to do what they’re doing’. It’s a case of people looking at us and saying it.

“If we don’t try to redefine the toys-to-life experience, then we don’t have anything else to rest on. We don’t have a big movie coming out. We don’t have 50 years of IP that people can look at and think: ‘I’ve known that character forever.’ We are constantly redefining what the genre means because we have to lead it.”

The competition is a good thing for UK retailers. Toys R Us’ merchandise director Fiona Murray-Young tells MCV the firm has doubled its space for the toys-to-life genre and even moved the section to the front of its store.

“The competition in this space has helped the overall understanding and acceptance of this new toys-to-life category,” she said. “So Disney Infinity and Skylanders are working side-by-side very well.”

She added: “I absolutely believe this can keep growing. The innovation we have seen with Skylanders Trap Team has moved the game on so much, with the sound chip in the portal itself and the ability to play as the villain.

“We always wonder how can they take it further, and they have with fantastic new characters. Disney Infinity has this great big back catalogue of characters and that will help kids embrace it all the more. And these games allow children to keep playing and playing and playing.

“We have doubled the space for these games in the last 12 months and we have brought them to the front of the store into our ‘feature’ area so people can’t miss it.”

The toys-to-life genre is bigger than ever, says GfK Chart-Track. The data giant tracks the sales of all Skylanders and Disney Infinity products, including individual toys and starter packs.

In terms of the total revenue generated by these products in the UK between 2011 and 2013, 11 per cent came in 2011. This is down to the launch of Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure, which was the first title in the genre.

40 per cent happened in 2012, with continued sales of the first game and the launch of Skylanders Giants.
Last year accounted for 49 per cent of the revenue made from toys-to-life games since 2011, including all Skylanders products and Disney Infinity.

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Tags: skylander , batman , power rangers , jakks , jakks pacific , Disney Infinity , Toys-to-life battle

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