First off, I’m just going to leave this right here…
That strange noise you just heard was a combination of your children squealing with glee and your accountant shrieking in terror. Congratulations on those who took “Skylanders SWAP Force” in the Skylanders 3 Official Name Pool, as Activision has announced the title of the next iteration in the Skylanders series, along with the new gimmicks for this year’s installment. While it’s not a surprise that a new Skylanders game is going to come out, there are a few interesting pieces of information to digest here.
What’s (left) in your wallet?
Once word came out, Greg sent me a “only half joking” text message about saying goodbye to Malcolm’s college fund. The new game will eventually feature — get ready for this — a whopping 56 toys that we know of right now. Fifty-six! This 56 will consist of 16 Series 3 characters (basically “returning favourites”), 8 new Light-Core characters, 16 brand new Skylanders proper, and of course, 16 SWAP Force characters. It’s the SWAP force characters that are the big new gimmick this time around, as each of these characters comes apart at the waist, allowing you to mix and match tops and bottoms to combine abilities. This can result in 256 different combinations to play around with.
So, let’s even say you’re like me and you’re desperately trying to enforce a “No Series 2” rule in your house (since we now have all 32 original Skylanders). Extend that to Series 3 and Light-Cores, and that’s STILL 32 brand new characters. This is going to drive collectors and completionists nuts (and broke). At least Giants featured only 16 real new characters, we’re doubling that here.
Terrific. Because it wasn’t hard enough trying to keep our Skylander collection somewhat intact. The kids carry them around the house, in the van, out around the town, and we’re always misplacing them and trying to locate that special one that one of the boys needs to have. Now add in the capability to lose half a toy and all the fun that will cause. I will admit I love this idea. I’m just already preparing myself for the worst.
What about the gameplay?
Finally! The mythical Skylander creatures with all their magical abilities are finally going to be able to perform one of the most basic tasks in gaming. Jumping! Yes, Vicarious Visions (picking up development of this title from Toys For Bob) are finally bringing jumping to Skylanders, which frankly has been one of the few things really noticeably missing. It sounds almost like the game is being rebuilt from the ground up, with a heavier focus on HD graphics, the swapping mechanic, and the new jumping capabilities. I’ll give Activision this, at least they’re not taking the easy way out and pumping out the exact same game over and over again.
Well, sort of. Yes, all of your toys from previous games will work with SWAP Force. And it sounds like they’ll all be able to jump. Unfortunately, the new swapping mechanic means that the previous Portals of Power won’t have the capability to interact with the new SWAP Force figures, requiring a new Portal for this game. That means there will not be a Portal Owners Pack this time around because everybody’s going to need a new portal. This may be offputting to some, but honestly I was happy that we were able to use our old Portal with the light up figures in Giants, and you knew this would be coming.
Visions of Guitar Hero
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit concerned about the direction of the franchise. It’s starting to eerily resemble the path of Guitar Hero. Massive hit. Lots of plastic toys to go along with the game. Yearly releases. Competitors jumping into the market. I worry because that genre eventually got so saturated that now we really have no new rhythm games coming out anymore (ignoring dance games which never really required any special peripherals) and it just dried up. With Disney Infinity now coming into play, that’s going to be two games requiring a heavy investment in toys, a lot of shelf space to set aside, and most importantly, only so many dollars to go around. Add in some of the offshoot iPad stuff using toys, and we’re starting to see the same saturation happening in the “toys and gaming” space. Maybe it’s the natural order of things, but I’d hate to see the same fate befall Skylanders/Disney Infinity that we saw with Guitar Hero/Rock Band.
By the way, Vicarious Visions also jumped into the Guitar Hero series mid-stream, just like they’re doing with Skylanders. Nothing against them, and it’s not like Guitar Hero started sucking under their watch, but it’s just another commonality that seems a bit spooky.
At the end of the day, Skylanders is still positioned to sell really well, and it’s got a huge fanbase that have already invested heavily in the series, so they have a lot of advantages in what’s becoming a crowded market. When I told my middle son Malcolm about the newly announced game, his eyes got wide and he started jumping up and down in excitement. And it’s still hard to find the latest wave of toys in stores. I don’t need a crystal ball to tell you that Skylanders SWAP Force will be on a lot of Christmas lists this year and will likely net a lot of coin for Activision. But it might not be as much of a slam dunk in the future, and I’ll be interested to see how much Disney Infinity eats into its share of the pie.
In the meantime, have a gander at some very early screen shots and previews of some of the toys. You might also want to book some overtime, cancel your family vacation, and/or dip into those college funds while you’re at it.
SKYLANDERS SWAP FORCETM “MIXES IT UP” AT TOY FAIR 2013
From the Innovators who Brought “Toys to Life” Comes an
Entirely New Innovation – Swapability
16 New Characters With Swappable Top and Bottom
Halves Can Be Customized into More Than 250
Unique Combinations, Taking Skylanders
and the “Toys to Life” Category to a New Level
Stellar HD Graphics Deliver Cinema-Quality Visuals and Storytelling,
Immersing Players in Gameplay Like Never Before
SANTA MONICA, CA – February 5, 2013 – In just over a year, the novel concept of bringing toys to life has made Skylanders one of the most beloved and successful children’s video game franchises of all time1, establishing a new category in family entertainment. Today, Activision Publishing, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), revealed Skylanders SWAP Force, the next installment in the popular franchise, which will be featured at Toy Fair 2013, February 10-13 at the Javits Center in New York City, in booth 3061.
SWAP Force builds upon the success of the franchise’s signature gameplay with an all-new innovative play pattern — swapability — that gives kids more choice than ever before by letting them swap the top and bottom halves of the toys to create their own characters. The game lets Portal Masters reconfigure 16 SWAP Force characters into more than 250 unique combinations. Kids can mix and match characters’ powers and moves, and then bring them to life in the game. Fans of the franchise also can play Skylanders SWAP Force with their entire collection of characters from both Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure® and Skylanders GiantsTM, now with the added capability of jumping.
“With Skylanders, we didn’t just create a beloved new franchise, we actually created an entirely new category that brings the world of physical toys and video games together like never before. And now with SkylandersSWAP Force, we are pushing the genre we created forward with another big innovation: customization,” said Eric Hirshberg, CEO of Activision Publishing, Inc. “The idea that kids can customize their own characters in the physical world, and have their unique combinations recognized in the virtual world, is an idea as big as the concept of bringing toys to life itself.”
In Skylanders SWAP Force, Portal Masters embark on an all-new adventure in the mysterious Cloudbreak Islands, home to a mystical volcano that erupts every hundred years to replenish the magic in Skylands. During an epic battle, a brave group of Skylanders were caught in the volcano’s eruption, which blasted them apart and sent them to earth. But, the magic of the volcano gave these heroes a remarkable new power — the ability to swap halves – turning them into a special team known as the SWAP Force. Meanwhile, Kaos is back with a new evil plan. And now, Portal Masters everywhere must reassemble the SWAP Force — in their original form or in new combinations — and send them back to Cloudbreak to save Skylands!
Skylanders SWAP Force features 16 new SWAP Force characters, along with 32 core Skylanders characters (16 completely new Skylanders and 16 new versions of fan favorite characters from previous games) and eight newLightCore™ characters. Skylanders SWAP Force also delivers high-resolution graphics that bring the game’s detailed characters and rich environments to life, immersing players in the gameplay like never before.
“Skylanders Giants was named to our 2012 Holiday Hot Toy List for good reason – it extended the franchise’s breakthrough gameplay and its performance at retail has been incredible. We’re continually impressed by the originality that Activision delivers in bringing toys to life,” said Jerry Storch, Chairman and CEO, Toys”R”Us, Inc. “The innovation of allowing kids to customize their toys in the real world and then send them into the Skylanders SWAP Force game is sure to raise the bar for the franchise.”