One the most unexpected announcements of this year’s E3 was undoubtedly Ubisoft’s ambitious new toys-to-life title. At a time when some have described the sector as being doomed, with only Lego Dimensions bucking that trend, it’s a very brave move to be launching a toys-to-life title. But with Starlink: Battle for Atlas, that’s just what Ubisoft is doing.
Starlink makes three clever moves. The first is distancing itself from the character-based strategy of practically every other toys-to-life franchise; in Starlink, the core toys are spaceships, which look like fun to play with on their own.
Secondly, the ships have interchangeable parts and weapons, so there’s yet more play value in switching out those parts – both in and out of the game. Finally, the ship is mounted on your controller, letting you play with it, while you play the game.
The game then brings strongly defined characters, which look to have stepped straight out of a slick animated series. It seems to be aimed, or will at least appeal, to a slightly older demographic than most toys-to-life franchises. Mixing space combat and ground exploration, the gameplay utilises both weapon- and ship-swapping to allow players to gain an advantage against their current opponent.
It’s a significant gamble by Ubisoft. The investment costs in creating a toy line as well as a new game franchise will be significant. It’s great news for physical retailers, though, as the toys will be a big driver in the appeal of the game. However, Ubisoft has mentioned that you will be able to buy the title and the elements digitally, presumably for those who just want to play the game and any potential Switch customers.
The exact strategy for how the content and toys will be rolled out isn’t available yet. We’d expect the game to come with a ‘starter ship’, with other weapons and ships sold separately, though what in-game content (beyond the ship itself) will come with an additional ship is currently unknown.
It’s heartening to see that Ubisoft believes there’s still potential in toys-to-life. Furthermore, its efforts to innovate within the genre shows there are a lot more ideas out there than what we’ve seen to date. We eagerly await its release next year.
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