With the rise and fall of bringing toys to life in video games, could Skylanders be revitalized by going all-digital with its characters?
Parents and retail employees around between 2011 and 2016 can tell you all about Skylanders — mostly through gritted teeth. For those who may have forgotten, Toys for Bob and Activision had an, admittedly, clever idea to make a game in which you hooked up a real-life platform to your system.
From there you took a Skylander toy and placed it on the portal. That character would then appear in the game as your playable character. It even saved your level up progress so if you took it to a friend’s house you could actually bring your character with you.
It started nicely. Then Activision, being Activision, realized that as they made new Skylanders games, people were just going to bring their old Skylanders with them, so they included new things into each game. Giants called for giant Skylanders, Swap Force called for toys that could split in half and be recombined, Superchargers called for vehicles. Not just cars, but boats and planes as well. It was insane.
Eventually, the trend died out hard though — especially after Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions dropped around the same time and required toys. Suddenly a third of all Gamestop retailers were just add-on packs for three games, and parents had to decide which one of the three giants their wallets drained into. It was not a fun time.
Now though, Skylanders comes with a new problem.
I lucked out a few years ago. One of my regular customers came in with a giant box of Skylanders. In it was every single Skylander for the first three games along with the portals and the other whatnot.
I explained to her that we didn’t take them in trade anymore. She said, “Honestly, I figured I wouldn’t get more than ten for this junk anyway. Can you guys just throw these out? I’m trying to clear out my house.” I bought them off her for $30.
Then, admittedly, they sat around and did nothing in a box. Recently, however, my kids have been old enough to get into gaming and we discovered, collectively, that these games are actually really fun multiplayer dungeon crawlers for all ages.
Then we tried Imaginators. This was the final Skylanders game and required a bunch of stuff we didn’t have so I looked up one of the particular characters and found it on Amazon for $55.
Hold on. These figures now get sold by third-party people for weird amounts and it is a massive pain finding them. Especially if you’re looking for new cores that you need to make your own character in the final game.
So here’s my thing and, Toys for Bob, if you’re still reading this, please sit. Go digital.
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Toys for Bob stopped producing all their toys around maybe two years ago. The games themselves normally sell used but portals and characters get harder and harder to find, especially with people just throwing them out.
Now let’s say you could pick up a used Skylanders game for like $5, then took it home and then had the ability to, as Starlink did recently, just buy the characters for the game in the form of DLC. Instead of worrying about the figures and portals, you were just given a menu to switch between them.
This would suddenly bring these worlds back to life and actually generate more income for those involved and, honestly, given how Activision seems to enjoy making money off digital content, I can’t imagine how they’re just sitting on this gold mine and letting it collect dust.
They were willing to pay Academy Award-winning Susan Sarandon a ton of money to play Khaos’ mother in the Netflix series “Skylanders Academy” and they never thought to work to do this? Let’s do this, gang.
What do you think? Do you think you’d play these games again (or for the first time) if you could buy the characters digitally? Discuss below.