Some say yes. I say no.
I’m a fan of Skylanders, not that I’ve bought any of them. I guess it would be more accurate to say I’m a cheerleader for Skylanders. Partially because Toys For Bob consists of the masterminds that created the greatest game of all time, but partially because it’s a fun, light, bright, creative game like we’ve never seen before that flies in the face of the dark gritty “realism” that makes up the rest of the video game scene. And now it’s starting to get copied, and not just by the little guys.
But that doesn’t mean slapping a toy on your game will be the boost it needs to succeed. This Christmas you may have seen Mattel’s “Aptivity” iPad toy/games. A game that comes with a toy that you put on your iPad to play the game. Some of them were based on existing IPs, insuring brand recognition. Some of them even had a collectible aspect with different powers with the different toys. But where were all those Aptivity boxes were the day after Christmas? In the clearance aisle. Maybe the fault is that iPads aren’t as ubitiquous as Apple would have you believe. Maybe the toys were too big and covered too much of the screen. Plus if you lost the toy you couldn’t play the game. Maybe they weren’t advertised well enough. Whatever the reason Mattel’s Aptivities are a great caution to this tale.
Skylanders works because it is, at it’s root, a fun game supported by the toys that play a legitimate part in the game. It didn’t need a big IP behind it which helped buffer any loss. And it was original, on many levels. The game didn’t even really lean on old Spyro games. It would be easy to not realize that Skylanders is a Spyro game, and that’s not bad.
The video game industry is a mess. How they’re managing to employ anyone is a mystery. It should be the PacMan crash of ’84 all over again every year since 2001. Investment wise video games are a dead end which means the only people who invest in video games are doing it half out of love of the medium, which is good, but can only bet on “sure things” or risk losing it all, which is bad. Every higher-res iteration of the hardware only makes things worse as developer lose the ability to hide corners they cut. So games become more and more expensive to make, meaning every flop is a loss of development and distribution money. Now they’re going to think that they need toys to succeed so a flop will cost development, distribution, manufacture and packaging. That coupled with people clamoring for the next high-def hardware that will drive development costs up even higher and the economy of the whole thing just becomes tenuous to the point of foolhardy.
So where should the video game industry look for its salvation? I don’t think there’s any silver bullet that will save AAA video games. As long as they’re listening to the hardware nuts who want bigger, faster, higher resolution the industry will suffer. The successes will continue go to those who can do it cheaper and make games that appeal to a large audience. Legitimately fun to play and fun to watch games will reign. I think the independent game scene with their high transparency and closer fan interaction will take a slice as well. I honestly hope that this hardware drive reaches critical mass and collapses in on itself taking the plethora of XStations and every single Call of Combat war sim with it. Nothing but family friendly entertainment all served through your PC or one and only one console.
But then again I’m old man with kids so what do I know?