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Drew Seldin, vice president of TriForce Sales, definitely knows about "bridging the gap" between the real world and the videogame world. Specializing in high-end collectibles for the fans with the deepest pockets, Seldin's company only has a single videogame license at the moment, but that's all it needs. TriForce is known for creating the $950 replica of Gears of War's Lancer Assault Rifle, and while it doesn't actually shoot (or chainsaw) people to death, it's the closest thing gamers can get to a real version of their favorite virtual weapon.
"Most of the weapons, armor or character pieces in videogames are just really cool," Seldin said. "They're used in a videogame world to battle monsters or gods or some kind of evil to help humanity prevail. But many of these pieces aren't real-world items, so being able to own a piece of it appeals to fans."
For TriForce, and all the videogame toymakers, authenticity is key. Every company said it works closely with the developers to make sure each collectible is accurate to the game they're inspired by. The toymakers have to rely heavily on the developers for reference and art direction; after all, they're taking characters and items that only exist on-screen and turning them into physical 3D objects.
"They were easily the most involved group we've ever dealt with," said McFarlane of Halo creators Bungie. The developers had feedback on everything from the shade of green on Master Chief's helmet to the thickness of the rivets in a Spartan soldier's armor. "If you can think about it, they had a comment," he said, laughing. "But they know their characters better than we do. Sometimes that can be a little bit of a frustration, but it was rewarding ... they were a huge, valuable asset to us with their comments."
The attention to detail has clearly paid off, and the toy companies are busier than ever. McFarlane said that his company has sold out of Halo: Reach product this year; NECA is seeing its Gears of War, Bioshock and Assassin's Creed lines fly off the shelves; FigurePrints is producing even more custom World of Warcraft figures with the Cataclysm expansion on the way; and Square Enix can barely keep Final Fantasy VII toys stocked (everyone wants a Cloud and Sephiroth toy).
And yes, TriForce is even selling its $950 Lancer. "I think that a collector's passion is what drives what they purchase," Seldin said, when asked why someone would drop a thousand bucks on a videogame "toy." "What makes the person who spends $950 on a baseball autograph different from the person who buys one of our Lancers? When you're thinking about making a purchase, you have to ask yourself, 'Do I have to have it?' If you can honestly say 'yes,' then go for it!"
Tracey John is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York. When she's not writing about games, toys and comics, she's probably LFG in Azeroth. Find out more about her at her website, www.traceyjohn.com.