Activision's action figure-driven Skylanders: Sypro's Adventure was a huge holiday hit last year, with parents buying up starter kits in droves. Now, with hundreds of thousands of children demanding additional figures, empty Skylanders displays have become an all-too-frequent frustration for haggard parents.
Yes, all is going according to Activision's evil plan.
The first game to successfully marry toys and console entertainment, Skylanders starter kits come packed with only three of the 37 different figures playable in the game. While a child (or an adult, for that matter) can easily have a great time playing with just the three characters, the game is laced with references, unlockables and videos for the figures the player doesn't yet possess; in-game advertising at its finest. Effective in-game advertising at that, if those empty displays are any indication.
Over the past few weeks I've spoken to employees at GameStop, Target, Walmart and Toys 'R' Us, each giving me a variation of the same story. The Skylanders toys arrive and customers swarm the display like hungry piranha, stripping it bear in no time flat -- and that's when the employees can even get them out of the boxes they're shipped in.
While visiting GameStop this past weekend I witnessed firsthand an extremely haggard father nearly begging a customer service representative to call around to other stores to check toy availability, a sad looking little boy at his side. When he was told by said CSR that they couldn't simply look up the information on the store computer the father became flustered. He stormed out of the store muttering obscenities, dejected little boy in tow. "Have you tried Toys 'R' Us?" I offered helpfully, but he didn't hear me.
Just as well. Toys 'R' Us was completely out as well.
Is there relief to this Skylander draught in sight? According to Activision VP of marketing John Coyne they're making the toys as fast as they can, but demand keeps growing.
"We are doing our best to keep up with the consumer demand for Skylanders and to keep product on the shelves. Skylanders was one of the most popular gifts this holiday season and demand for toys has continued to rise week after week without any signs of slowing down. We're shipping Skylanders toys out as soon as they come off the production lines and will get them to stores as quickly as we can."
There is good news of the horizon, however. According to the official Skylanders product availability FAQ, previously limited characters will be releasing in greater numbers later this month, with a new $US20 adventure pack on the way as well. Spring will see the release of the final wave of Skylanders, allowing players to finally check Lightning Rod, Zook, Warnado, Camo, Wham Shell and the Dragons Peak Adventure Pack (including Sunburn) off of their lists.
As for right here, right now, I'd suggest checking online for retailers carrying the toys, though I'd avoid eBay, where price gouging is in full effect. Maybe try making friends with a retail employee, someone with the ability to call you when the boxes arrive.
Or you could just come over to my house; I have all of them so far. I think I might go roll around in them right now.