This Is The Video Game Reinvention Of Toys, Or So The People Behind Call Of Duty Hope

The next big thing in action figures is "interaction figures." That's the pitch we heard today during a showcase event in New York City for a revival of the video game hero Spyro the Dragon as part of a band of toys that interact with video games.

Spyro will be one of at least 30 toys - colourful, small statues, really - that each contain a microchip that stores the progress players make with those characters in a related video game. A new Spyro toy will be sold as a level one character, but playing Spyro in this fall's Wii game Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure will start leveling him up, adding powers as he rises from rank 1 to 10.

It helps to see this in action.

The toy version of Spyro connects to the Wii game by being placed on a plastic disc called a portal. (See the video atop this post.) The portal reads the chip in the statue so that the Wii game can render a Spyro who has the right character levels. Putting someone else's Spyro toy on the portal would render a Spyro in the video game who is at that toy's level.

This isn't a Spyro game, though. It's a game featuring line of toys featuring a line of characters. Removing the Spyro toy from the portal and putting a different Skylanders toy on it pulls Spyro from the game and replace him with the properly-leveled version of the new toy. Each colourful Skylander character has different powers in the game. Playing as one or the other will trigger changes in the game level's terrain. A player can finish the Skylander game with any one toy, but the company behind this game, Call of Duty publisher Activision, would prefer that players collect them all.

Here's an example of one of the characters... a guy called Trigger Happy. His rap sheet:

Element: Tech Primary Attack: Gold Coin Shooters Secondary Attack: Safe Cracker Bomb Upgrades include: -Pot‐of‐Gold Bomb -Super Charged Gold Blasters -Gold Nugget Slinger

Bio: Trigger Happy is more than his name, it's his solution to every problem. Nobody knows from where he came. He just showed up one day blasting gold coins everywhere with his custom‐crafted shooters. Now everyone throughout the lands knows of this crazy goldslinger that will take down any bad guy… usually without bothering to aim.

This is kid's stuff, of course. We were warned before attending that the game might be for younger people than the typical Kotaku reader. You can decide that. But as we heard more details it was obvious that this Skylanders concept could be expanded. Even if it isn't, there are some strong influences from everything from Lego Star Wars to World of Warcraft that make this more interesting that it might appear at a glance. There's drop-in co-op that works if two kids each put a toy on the portal. There's character leveling, though it is accelerated (a kid can hit the level cap in a few hours), and there's even an option for player-vs-player combat.

Paul Reiche, creative director at Toys for Bob, the game studio behind the concept, explained to Kotaku that the Skylanders figures will be aligned to one of several elements, with certain character types - dragons, for example - represented in each class. Collecting and using more of the same element or type will add powers to the other toy characters of that same group. The portal and the game can track this, he explained, by automatically associating the toy with the portal to which it is first connected (for that reason, a child wouldn't be able to cheat by having their friends' toys pose as their own.)

The toys are all colourful if a bit fragile-looking, well-sculpte


Comments

    Hmm, the whole levelling up and storing on the toy idea would actually be pretty cool for a game like Pokemon. Then they could change the slogan from 'gotta catch em all' to 'gotta buy em all'.

    Great. Figures. What a game-changing innovation. Now instead of taking a split second to press a button I can simply get off of my lazy arse and swap figurines around on a board. This completely changes the way I play.
    I can't see a game working the same without a board that will likely cost me upward of $50, and, knowing Activision, separately sold figurines released each few months at exponentially growing prices.
    Thanks, Activision! I didn't think character swapping would ever get easier than pressing buttons!

    ...What was wrong with a menu activision? And haven't Microsoft already done something like this with kinectimals?

    But I can see this working, because I rekon the age group it's aimed at would also get value out of the toy. I'm not really the right person to judge :P

    Maybe I didn't read closely enough but the toys seem to be just memory cards with a plastic figure on them...

    This isn't exactly ground breaking new stuff. There's already been a slew of games/devices where you train up a creature then connect to someone else's device/upload to the web and it joins the world so you can fight or adventure with it. Some also let you play with the creature outside of the game world via LCD devices.

    I can see how kids will enjoy this kind of thing, and I'm hoping to see them start doing stuff like tabletop games that use the tabletop interface to read unit positions and represent it on screen. However, I can't help but think this is just a cash cow that isn't going to be looked at beyond another way to make kids spend money on collectibles.

    When I read the title I was hoping they'd finally started looking at a way of bringing the game character into the real world via a robotic toy that linked back to the game character as a two way controller.

    It's a cool enough idea but seems completely unnecessary. Isn't it essentially a glorified single-purpose cutesie looking hard-drive collectible rather than a toy? Aren't toys usually something that you have the capacity to play with?

    "The toys are all colourful if a bit fragile-looking, well-sculpte"...
    Mmyes? You were saying?

    Kinda like how Guitar Hero was simply pushing a few buttons? The rhythm game genre was possible on keyboards and console controllers, yet the experience was much better through peripherals. And it spawned a multi-billion dollar genre.
    Games are about the whole experience. Engage the imagination. Bring real and virtual fun together. Games have often spawned toy lines (like Pokemon) so I think it's natural evolution to merge the toy and game experience. It already happens with Webkinz. I see LEGO and many others continuing to innovate on this. It would be great to see game progression manifest in the toy.
    Imagine a day when a kid who completes 2 hours of real world batting or soccer practice upgrades his virtual sports avatar to level 8.

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