A new Spyro the Dragon game, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure will incorporate collecting toys from the new toy line into the core game mechanics.
Releasing toys based on videogames is nothing new, just ask my Master Chief action figure or Pac-Man hat. Making the toys and integral part of the game mechanics? That's a bit more novel and it's exactly the case with Activision's upcoming title, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. The game, coming to unannounced consoles, will feature a device called the "Portal of Power", which will allow any of the 32 announced toys to interface with the game. This will unlock the character the toy is based on for play in the game, along with new powers and abilities. The game package will cost $70, and will contain the game, 3 toys, the Portal of Power, and trading cards. They toys and game are scheduled for release sometime this fall.
The toys will also be able to store game information, keeping your progress and game history the same no matter where you play your game. And that could be rather useful, as the main game will also have web, mobile, and handheld editions that will also be able to interface with the toys.
"These are toys with brains," said Eric Hirshberg, Activision Publishing CEO. "These are more than action figures. They are inter-action figures."
But Activision isn't putting all its Spyro eggs into a single gimmicky (albeit nifty) basket. It's also hired some impressive Hollywood talent to help give Skylanders the expansive and immersive world it's looking for. The screenwriters who wrote Toy Story, Alec Sokolow and Joel Cohen, have already signed on to the project, as has Shrek character designer Tom Hester and the composer of Inception fame, Hanz Zimmer.
"It's got a whole universe of characters and an incredible backstory and a number of different ways to interact with it," said Hirshberg "Usually franchises take years to develop the kind of universe that we will have Day 1."
Activision has partnered with Toys'R'Us to market and distribute the toys across the globe, and the two companies will reveal the toy line together sometime next week at the American International Toy Fair. Said the Toys'R'Us CEO and Chairman Jerry Storch of the partnership, "We believe this product line is among the most exciting and unique offerings that will be seen at Toy Fair this year, and we are excited to partner with Activision to bring Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure to Toys'R'Us stores this fall."
Forcing people to buy a plethora of accessories to simply play a game with any degree of completion is not only an idea that has been tried many times before, but is also just as seemingly greedy as it has always been. While working the toy line into the game is an interesting idea, making it a requirement if you want to play the game takes things too far, in my opinion. This being a game that will obviously be marketed to a younger audience, you can bet that Activision is relying on weak-willed parents shelling out extra money on the toys their obnoxious children will incessantly badger them to buy after seeing the Toys'R'Us commercial that will no doubt pimp them as the greatest thing ever.
And while I'm ranting, I would like to point out that Activision has missed out on a golden naming opportunity. I would have named it Skylanders: There Can Only Be One.