April 24, 2014, 9:44 AM — As a parent of a soon-to-be-7-year-old son, I’ve for the most part avoided the toy-and-entertainment obsessions that previous generations faced. He didn’t get hooked on the Nintendo DS system and games (yet), and he hasn’t experienced Pokemon and all of its iterations.
I thought I was in the clear until Skylanders came out a few years ago - the video game franchise that uses physical action figures (sold separately) as part of the game play. I was able to escape the first iteration, but my son found out about Skylanders Giants (the second version), and he (OK, me) gobbled up figures for the third version (Skylanders Swap Force) last year.
Now comes the fourth version of the game, “Skylanders Trap Team”, which includes a whole bunch of new characters (figures) to buy, as well as plastic “traps” that can capture villains within the game so you can play as the bad guys. The new video shows you more of the gameplay and concept behind “Trap Team”:
The new game comes out on Oct. 5 (in North America), just in time for another round of holiday shopping frenzy as parents and kids (mostly parents) scramble around to make sure they have the right characters and figures for the game. But this isn’t the only danger for my wallet - there’s rumors that the second version of “Disney Infinity” will come out this year as well, with figures from the Marvel Universe (which Disney now owns). I’m fully expecting Disney to include Star Wars figures as well, and they haven’t even scratched the surface for all of the other Disney characters (they’ve included two characters from Frozen, but I also expect to see more from them as well as the traditional “princesses” and all of the classic Disney characters like Donald, Goofy, etc.).
Skylanders has proven a market for this - it’s generated more than $2 billion since being introduced in 2011, and has a rabid following (at least in my son’s demographic - all of his friends are into the game as well). For other franchises, it’s only a matter of time before they try to jump into the market - how long before we see DC Comics figures, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Star Trek or other geek-fandom obsessions?
And don’t forget about the girls - Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony (imagine the “Bronies” who would love a game like Skylanders set in the Pony universe) are all waiting to be digitized.
My biggest complaint (other than all of the additional cost) seems to be with these portals that help convert the action figures into the game - every time a new game comes out, you have to buy a new portal. Which means the older portals end up just sitting there doing nothing (old figures can go onto the new portals, but the old portals are basically useless), sitting next to other accessories like my Guitar Hero guitars and Rock Band drum set.
Keith Shaw rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.