Success, Giants, and Skylandesr parties.
No know knew what to expect from Skylanders when the first details of Spyro’s rebooted series.
After all, toys and video games had gone hand-in-hand for years, but on the back of the sharp backlash of plastic instruments and bulky peripherals (something that Activision itself was very much responsible for), Skylanders could have gone either way.
Not even a year has passed and already Skylanders has gone on to be a rousing success. With sales of their figurines accessories over 30 million with stores selling out and rare versions fetching triple figures online, Activision, a company with one of gaming’s most profitable names under its belt is no doubt laughing its way to the bank to have struck gold once again.
We sat down with Activision’s product specialist to discuss the Skylanders brand and see where the publisher will take its profitable IP with its first sequel, Skylanders: Giants.
GamerZines: Skylanders was a surprise hit of 2011, when did that success set in for Activision?
Noah Kricher-Allen: Around the holiday season was when we realised Skylanders was going to be big and then post-holiday when people had received the game as a gift started going back to stores to get new characters was when we realised just how big it was going to be. By the Easter frame time, we realised “Wow! This is a huge hit.” We had more people buying characters per game than we had originally estimated. We knew people would be into it but we didn’t expect it to be such a frenzy.
GamerZines: What sort of uptake have you seen in the figures alone?
Noah Kricher-Allen: We’ve seen a huge uptake. We blew through our entire inventory in spring I can tell you that much. We knew it was going to be a heavy proposition but I think what made it resonate so well is that even from a value prospective, it makes a lot of sense. If you’ve already beat the game, you can go out and buy a figurine for less than $10 and have an entirely new experience. Maybe you’ll unlock areas you didn’t have access to before. I think that’s part of the reason beyond many others that we’ve seen a huge uptake.
GamerZines: How soon after Skylanders took off did you start working on Skylanders Giants?
Noah Kricher-Allen: We were already working on Giants before Skylanders launched. It would be hard to put a date on it.
GamerZines: Why Giants?
Noah Kricher-Allen: From a story standpoint and the folklore of Skylanders it made sense. Sky land is in trouble again, what do they do when they’re in trouble? Well they need to call in bigger, badder Skylanders. We knew that our audience would have more fun playing with bigger characters. You saw a little bit of it in our demo, the epic entrance the Giants make. Looking at different options and where we wanted to take the story and the franchise I think that Giants made sense in the context of that.
GamerZines: What can returning Skylander expect from Giants?
Noah Kricher-Allen: There’s a whole new storyline. Just like any sequel you’re going to be seeing new bad guys, new worlds, new story elements, new non-playable characters. Like I said we’ve sort of upped the ante on optional gameplay and explorable areas so as a player you’ll have more side paths to go down and explore. We’re trying to make the battle mode a little more robust. We’re going to release these battle packs which have two characters and a battle level packaged in. Players will expect to have a more exciting adventure with new characters also more choice in how they play because we have all of our all old characters playable in the new game as well as those being introduced.
GamerZines: Do you have a favourite of the new characters?
Noah Kricher-Allen: Hands down Pop Fizz. Talking about variety of gameplay, the concept of him being able to have all these different potions and colours he can mix together and cast different spells, that’s so different from what any of the other Skylanders can do. Instantly when I jumped in with him I knew this would be the character I wanted to play with.
GamerZines: Will players be able to transfer stats from existing Skylander to one of the series 2 figures of the same character?
Noah Kricher-Allen: You’ll always have to start fresh. Part of that is staying and having fidelity to the magic and the folklore of the game but to answer your question: yes you will have to start fresh but you can bring that character into the game with its stats but it won’t have the Series 2 powers.
GamerZines: Will Giants be available without the portal for returning players?
Noah Kricher-Allen: You’ll have two different software SKUs. One of them will have something like an expansion pack label on it although it’s definitely not in the traditional sense an expansion pack, that’s just something for our audience to understand that you’ve already got the portal. With that you’ll get the software and one Giant figure. The other way you can get the game is, if you didn’t buy the first one, you buy the portal and it’ll come with the software, a giant, and two regular sized Skylanders and that’s our new Starter Pack. We know if you’re buying for the first time that you’ll want more than one toy to play with.
GamerZines: Do you see Giants being even bigger than Skylanders?
Noah Kricher-Allen: We already have such brand awareness with our target demographic that we’re basically building off the back of that. What’s nice about this is we have the ground work in there as far as kids are talking about it on the playground. I can’t tell you how many parents tell me that they’ve just had another Skylanders Birthday Party last weekend.
GamerZines: Skylanders Birthday Party?
Noah Kricher-Allen: This is a huge trend in the states, I’m assuming it happens in the UK. This is what so cool about those game pieces is because they store the information, someone will say have three Skylanders games running and they’ll invite kids to bring all their Skylanders toys and you can have battles and kids show off their accomplishments which are all saved on the toy.
I think that’s one of the coolest things about this game is that its bringing back this whole element of social gaming that I remember as a child playing couch co-operative gameplay. It’d be you and your friends playing together to beat the boss whereas now its migrated to playing online. It’s going back to the heyday of everybody having to get together and having that social feeling and in-game pay off. I think we’ve got the buzz going and we think Giants will be a greater success than Spyro’s Adventure, which is obviously not an easy task considering how successful it was. But we’ve got the frenzy out there and we’re giving our fans more Skylanders action.
GamerZines: Where do you go after Giants?
Noah Kricher-Allen: It’s a secret! [laughs]
PR: It is!
Noah Kricher-Allen: I can tell you this is a big franchise for us as a company so you can expect it to go somewhere but where it’s going to go is a secret right now. It’s cool though, trust me.
GamerZines: Are you at all flattered by Nintendo’s decision to include the near-field communications tech similar to the Skylanders portal into their gamepad?
Noah Kricher-Allen: I guess flattered could be one word for it. Obviously whenever you bring something this innovative and when it works so well other people will be interested in doing something similar to it themselves. I think it’s very interesting what Nintendo’s done with the Wii U. In so far as know how it will affect Skylanders, I can you it took us years to develop the game itself and the concept and woven together so perfectly. It’s always nice when there’s innovation in the marketplace.
GamerZines: Thank you for your time.
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