Skylanders Giants – Preview

A preview of Skylanders Giants I wrote for the website

Skylanders is one of those ideas that makes perfect sense; tying in a decent video game into collectible toys. Alright, that’s just Pokemon but the magic is in the Portal of Power that enables you to play the toys in the game. It’s a simple idea but one that has made the publisher Activision a whole heap of money. Enough money to warrant a sequel in Skylanders: Giants.

We’ll get the elephant in the room out of the way now; if it wasn’t for the toys then it’s doubtful if Skylanders would be back this year. The first game took the template established by the Lego Video Game franchise of a slightly top-down wander-around-and-smash-things-up game and added Spyro The Dragon. So far so boring but it was the toys that really made the game. Using tiny RFID chips embedded in the base of each character, you were able to upgrade their stats and give them special items. The toys would then ‘remember’ this so when you took them to a friends house then you could play with your own super-powered up character.

It’s genius. It’s well-marketed genius, granted but it’s a perfect combination of toy craze and character-based video games that sucks kids in. Giants looks to expand upon this by introducing Giant Skylanders, toys that are about twice the size of the original characters both in real life and in the game.

New Skylanders will also be available, some that will light up when put near the Portal of Power through some kind of witchcraft. That isn’t to say that your old collection of Skylanders will need to be replaced; all of them can be imported into the sequel with all of their stats and upgrades brought across. Your old Portal of Power will work with the new game so you don’t have to buy a new Starter Pack if you already have one.

The game itself will have new levels and increased multiplayer options including online modes. All of this looks to be geared towards upgrading and levelling up the characters. And, incidentally, buying all of them.

This would be the only dark cloud on the horizon for this game: the cost. Getting the Starter Pack and a decent amount of characters quickly mounts up. Also, the last time that Activision had a franchise that relied upon expensively bought plastic peripherals it didn’t end well; when the sales of the Guitar Hero franchise started to dip the publisher killed it off leaving consumers with a mountain of plastic guitars. It doesn’t look like this will happen to Skylanders any time soon, the franchise has expanded into iPad and PC games as well as potential TV and book tie-ins. Going back to Pokemon, that proves that a kids franchise can sustain itself over a long period. That only problem with that comparison is that Nintendo is a company that knows how to cultivate a franchise over a long period whereas with Activision it is always about the bottom line.

Putting the business details to one side, is Skylanders Giants worth your time and money? This decision will largely be out of your hands as long as the game is being spoken about on the playgrounds. As fads go, this is a pretty clever one but start saving up for the release date now.

Originally published October 19th 2012


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