It’s easy to assume that big business success is achieved through making insightful and difficult decisions at the right time, spotting a gap in the market and committing to filling it. OK, so there is some truth in this, but another essential piece of the puzzle is the creative and technical talent of individuals that go into really great products.
I’ve been impressed with Activision’s commitment to Skylanders; this has undoubtedly made it into a bigger, better and more enjoyable experience. However the real excitement for me was when I realized that these characters were not the product of a corporate machine but from the creative juices of some talented individuals.
One of these people is I-Wei Huang, a character designer at Toys for Bob who also has a hobby of making steam-powered robots and sculpting things out of clay. This led to a happy synergy of hobby and work as he took a lead in creating the characters for Skylanders.
Sitting down to talk to him last year about the process, and now with new LightCore Skylanders in mind, I was taken aback by the level of ownership and simple craft that went into each toy.
It was really interesting to hear Huang talk about struggles of preconceived ideas in the toy industry about what sort of characters boys would play with. Although they were told that all the Skylanders had to be boys, that “you just didn’t give them a good female character for boys to buy,” Huang pushed back, saying “you just haven’t given [boys] good enough girl characters to play with.”
In my family this seems to have worked as Hex and Stealth Elf are still two of the most used Skylanders. My kids are also keeping their eyes peeled for female Series 2 Skylanders characters once the new game is released. It will be interesting to see how these gender issues are applied to Skylanders Giants. Again we are looking forward to seeing what Huang and the team dream up for us.