Anticipating a flood of Skylanders Giants news at E3 I was pleased to get a little head-start when I was invited onto the Media Pulp podcast with John Davison (Gamespot), Jeff Gerstmann (Giant Bomb), Alex Ness from developer Toys For Bob and Mike Stout from Activision. It turned into a candid discussion of all things Skylanders where I gleaned not a few new things about the new game.
Firstly it was interesting to hear both Alex and Mike talking about Series 2 Skylanders to describe the new, reposed, light-up and giant characters coming in Giants. It’s no mean feat to talk about these different groupings in a coherent way and fascinating to see this language develop as we get closer to these figures hitting shops.
Most pressing in this regard is to present a clear and coherent story over which figures are new, which are re-released and which are enhanced. If you’ve not tracked with all the Skylanders Giants news the new game will provide new figures, re-posed figures, light up figures and of course the Giants.
As our conversation turned to the new game I was intrigued to hear how Activision and Toys For Bob had made decisions about incentives to buy the reposed Skylanders figures in particular — these will be re-released versions of the original Series 1 figures from the first game.
Alex Ness confirmed that “Series 2 [Skylanders] will have some different abilities and stats and some uber upgrades that the other [Series 1] ones don’t get.”
This is a double-edged sword, it provides a reason to buy the new figures, but also potentially down-grades the importance of the Series 1 figures from the original game. Mike Stout underlined the fact that they understood how important this balancing act was to get right. “There’s a trust with the consumer and if we violate that they won’t want it anymore.” When the consumers are children (and their parents) this balance of trust and profits is all the more precarious.
I asked Mike and Alex whether these limits to the Series 1 figures from the first game (not getting the different abilities and super upgrades) were because of technical limitations. Mike responded, “we want to make you feel good about buying a character who is reposed. We put the idea in front of a lot of parents and children and what they would always say is ‘OK it’s a toy, it’s reposed, but what does it do in the game?’ We wanted to make sure there was a compelling case for why is this guy cool. It was more a design and customer satisfaction thing than it was a technical thing.”
This all sounded pretty reasonable, and I was glad that they didn’t just dodge the bullet with an argument around technical limitations. However I still had the nagging feeling that when I told my kids about this they would ask “Why can’t Stump Smash get the new upgrades dad, is he broken?” So this was my next question. Was there was a point where Activision and Toys For Bob had thought about giving the Series 1 figures all these new abilities and decided against it?
Alex responded this time. “No, because when we were first talking about the Series 2 it was clear they needed to look a little bit different. Besides just the repose they’ve got some different qualities to them that I think you’ll see in the E3 release and some extra powers. We never really thought about doing that. We certainly want people to bring their Series 1 Skylanders into Giants and we support that completely.”
It’s this decision, that prioritizes making Series 2 figures exciting over ensuring Series 1 figures aren’t devalued, that is the biggest risk of Skylanders Giants for me. That’s not to say it’s insurmountable, but like in the first game they will be leaning heavily on the creative skills of the videogame and character designers to offer enough good stuff to off-set this cost — both financial and emotional (in the case of my kids) — to players.
My kids have gone on a magical journey with their Series 1 figures, which is a big reason I’m so enthusiastic about the whole Skylanders proposition. The toys mean something more than other toys or video-games do in our family. The figures have been marked by my kids (quite literally) and become family members to some extent. I’m not sure how we transition them to the Series 2 versions. Maybe we’ll just decide to live without the new abilities and super powers and just focus on the Giants but that seems like a shame.
There is a silver lining though, as Mike highlighted, there is still additional value in Skylanders Giants for the Series 1 figures. “You can level your old Skylanders up to level 15. Kids have a relationship with the old Skylanders and we want them to still be able to use them and have fun with them in the new game and have things to do. You have new hero challenges in the new game from having those old toys.”
By the end of the conversation I was still trying to get my head round all the implications. It was good to hear with clarity how Series 1 and Series 2 figures will be different in the new game. Although I have some reservations this is quite similar to my initial reaction to the first game before I played it and held my first toy figure. There are some pressing questions that I know won’t sit well with my kids in all this, but I’m happy to reserve judgement until I play the game proper and see everything Skylanders Giants has to offer.
Here are the (unofficial) details I’ve compiled from the pre-E3 information available to date along with Amazon searches to keep track of availability. I’ll be updating it as more details emerge from the show in June.
|Use in Spyro’s|
cap in Giants?
|Series 2 Giant Skylanders||Orange||8||No||Yes||Yes|
|Series 2 Light-Core Skylanders||Orange||4||No||Yes||Yes|
|Series 2 New Skylanders||Orange||8||No||Yes||Yes|
|Series 2 Reposed Skylanders||Orange||32||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Series 2 Reposed Light-Core Skylanders||Orange||4||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Series 1 Skylanders||Green||32||Yes||Yes||No|
|Series 1 Legendary Skylanders||Green||4||Yes||Yes||No|
|Series 1 Silver Skylanders||Green||3||Yes||Yes||No|
|Series 1 Gold Skylanders||Green||3||Yes||Yes||No|
|Adventure Pack Characters||Green||4||Yes||Yes||No|