Having quizzed Activision Publishing’s CEO about Skylanders Swap Force, we had a chance to get an opinion from the other side of the retail fence. Jerry Storch is the CEO and Chairman of Toys R Us and knows a thing or two about the toy business.
As you can see in the interview he also knows his beans when it comes to Skylanders Swap Force. He told us how he had worked with Skylanders for a number of years before it was released, even taking his wife with him to see the game on some trips.
Perhaps most interesting in the interview are Storch’s thoughts on Disney Infinity that came towards the end of our discussion. He was obviously keen on Disney’s new toy-figure cross-over game and said there was more than enough room for two offerings of this nature in store. In fact, he suggested that this sort of competition even legitimizes further investment in the genre as each game innovates for customer attention.
More than the appeal of a proposition like this though, we wanted to hear what the toy retailer made of the high prices on eBay. Storch seemed unfazed by the idea that products in Toys R Us may then sell for many times their retail value online. In fact it raised more than a smile, that this was a measure of the true value of these products that are “a bargain” when found in store.
We also asked Storch about the potential longevity of Skylanders Swap Force; would it go the same way of Guitar Hero with its sharp drop-off as gamers grew fatigued of fake plastic instruments? Storch preferred to draw similarities with Call of Duty rather than Guitar Hero, and was very positive about its prospects.
Interestingly Activision seem to be taking a similar alternating developer approach to Skylanders as it has with Call of Duty — although hopefully a friendlier relationship between Toys for Bob and Vicarious Visions than the sometime tempestuous Treyarch and Infinity Ward partnership.
Finally, we asked Storch the same question we had asked Eric Hirshberg about the requirement for a new portal and Swap Force Starter Pack this year. The Toys R Us Chairman was just as resolute as Activision about this really not being an issue for families.
For me and my family this will come down to cost. I’m expecting that the new Starter Packs will come in a little cheaper than previous years, once you consider how many figures are included in it, and that this will offset the problem of discarding our existing portal.
In fact my kids have already got plans for our old battery-powered Portal of Power, wanting to use it in a display box they are making for their figures out of some old show boxes and cereal packets. It dawned on them that they could hide the old portal underneath the cardboard and have the light-core Skylanders magically light up once they get near. Also they’ve been working on a new variant of their Skylanders chess game using the portal and light-core figures to create some explosive new rules — but that, as they say, is another story.
Skylanders Swap Force is still awaiting a date and price.