New York's American International Toy Fair February 14, 2012
Spyro who? While we all know Skylanders is one of the biggest critter-collecting phenomena since Pokemon, it's a little bizarre to see a massive amount of space devoted to the brand at Toy Fair. Presumably it's just there for media, because there was no real effort made to sell the product to buyers and if anything, this seemed a little bit like how they set up shop at E3. "We are huge," the booth says, "and you must all cower before us. Also, please take an exclusive Cynder figure on your way out." It's sort of baffling, but it does reek of a company who just made so much cash on this property that you know they're here to remind you who's cock of the walk.
The premise of the toy-meets-Xbox/Playstation/Wii concept is pretty amazing-- you buy a figure, and you put the figure on a little glowing ring. The ring senses the figure, and now you can play as the toy, inside the game. Can you imagine the possibilities here? What if your Bakugan could be on your Xbox? What if that new Transformer you bought could be on the Wii? This is an astonishingly good idea, as it takes the concept of DLC in video games (that is, upcharging for virtual downloadable items in a game) and applies it to toy buying. I feel like a chump paying $5 for a new Street Fighter character... but I'll gladly pay $15 for an action figure that also can bring me something new and fun in a game I own.
Last year this was a really big deal. Stores had massive displays with "out of stock" tags just so parents wouldn't have to ask-- that's how hot this stuff was. When asked, the booth people said that the next game would feature light-up figures based on giants, and that other licensed properties were being considered for the technology down the road. All I can say is that I'm really impressed, and this does seem like an amazing way for the video game industry to inject life into toys for older boys who grow out of small plastic men at increasingly disturbing young ages.
The aforementioned Cynder exclusive was handed out at the show to people one-per-badge, and the item has a printed "Toy Fair Exclusive" label on it-- it's not a sticker, it's an actual unique SKU. This seems like a lot of trouble for Activision to go through, but hey-- it paid off, as here I am writing about it and explaining this frankly innovative idea to you, the ornery toy collector or retro gamer who might not care for such things.
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