Penny Arcade have been doing a pretty good job of plugging the attractiveness of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, and they piqued my interest enough to check it out. After learning more about the game, and with my daughter's 7th birthday coming up, I thought "This is the perfect gift for her!"
R i i i i i i ght. For her. S u u u u r e it is.
Yes, you're right. It would make a better Christmas present for my 11 y/old son.
Riiiii... Okay, okay! Enough! Yes! I wanted it, too.
So what if the boy doesn't know it exists? When he does learn about it, he will want it. This, I know.
Last Sunday the cat woke me up early, as she does most mornings (even on my days off. Stupid cat. Don't you know it's Sunday?) so I got up, retrieved the Times from the doorstep (Hooray for early delivered papers) fed the cat, made myself breakfast, then sat down to read the paper. Which for me means separating the comics and mountain of catalogs from the rest of the sections, reading comics, then browsing the more important of the catalogs, Big 5, Best Buy, Toys R Us, etc.
And I saw that Toys R Us were running one of their "Buy Two, Get a Third Video Game/Accessory Free" deal, with a big "We have Skylander figures!" plug at the bottom of the page.
The Skylanders' Starter Pack retails for $70, which might seem a little expensive except that most new, full-price games sell for $60, so that's only $10 more, and you also don't get just the game in the Skylanders' Starter Pack. Included is a Skylanders Portal, which being somewhat (absolutely) necessary to play the game one could argue it should be included anyway at no additional charge (and I'd agree with you).
You also get three game figures (yes, actual figurines) which are also necessary to play the game. However, Activision could have done the bare minimum and included just one figure in the Starter Pack and still charged $70 for it, so if you factor in that those two figures would normally cost you $8 each now you're getting two "bonus" figures at a 33% discount. And I'm okay with that.
When placed on the Skylanders Portal those figures appear in the game as your playing character, and as each character has different powers they do add value & variety to even a single-player game. Additionally, there are numerous 'bonus' areas in the game which cannot be accessed unless certain characters are present. You can play through to the end of the game and beat The Final Boss using just the 3 characters in the Starter Pack, but you'll have to skip certain areas along the way because you won't be able to access them. Long story short, each figure/character belongs to one of eight different Elemental Groups, and certain areas can only be unlocked by characters from a specific Elemental Group. You don't need a figure from each Elemental Group to beat the game, but if you want to complete it 100% you will.
In addition to being your playing character, the figures serve additional purposes. They come with a memory chip inside them, and everything you achieve in the game for that character is automatically saved to the figure itself. As your character levels up & gets stronger & finds/buys new weapons, etc., those changes get saved to the figure's memory chip. And for the first time that I'm aware of (and I've been around for some time) these figures are cross-platform compatible, meaning you can take your figure to your friend's house, pop it on his Skylander Portal, and even though you've been playing on your Wii and he has a PS3, it doesn't matter; your character will appear in his game. Also by visiting your friend's house with your Skylanders' figures, or vice versa, you can help each other unlock those otherwise inaccessible areas.
Because I recently won the Office Weight Loss competition and picked up $400 for my trouble I had some extra cash burning a hole in my wallet, so with my mind made up I trotted off to Toys R Us and picked up the Skylanders' game. Because they had the Awesome! "Buy 2, get 1 Free" deal I also added two 3-character packs to my cart, saving myself $20 and reducing the price per figure to a shade over $3.
So now the Skylanders' game and nine figures/characters are waiting for a lucky young boy to open them on Christmas day. Except he doesn't know about Skylanders yet.
(And in case you're wondering I took my daughter on a shopping spree at Toys R Us. I am not a bad father.)
This weekend after a family outing we found ourselves at the local Mall, and while the wife went shopping the kids and I wound up at Dave & Busters. After playing several games and "winning" a bunch of tickets we cashed them in and entered the prize room. My daughter picked out one of those plastic echo-micophones but my son decided he wanted to save up his tickets. D&B also have a small selection of video games available at the checkout counter and while waiting for the cashier I was surprised to see they had a copy of Skylanders, for the Wii no less.
It was at the end of their glass cabinet so we could see the back side of the box, and my son's eyes lit up when he saw it. It's a big box, maybe 12"x18" in size, and it's colorful graphics are very eye catching. It is a boy magnet. It was also 15,000 tickets and we have just half that. The cashier took the box out of the cabinet so we (the boy ;) could look at it a little more closely. She also said she thought it looked pretty cool (or maybe she was just being a good salespeon), and said how much fun we would have playing the D&B games together and saving our tickets up.
To his credit the boy was financially savvy enough to recognize that buying the game outright was a better deal than paying $20 every few weeks to "win" 1,000 tickets. He was also sharp enough to notice that while the game box contained 3 figures, the pictures on the box showed a whole lot more.
We stopped at Gamestop on the way out of the Mall and after viewing the small display they have there (it has nothing on the wall of figures and adventure packs at Toys R Us) the hook was well & truly set. The boy knew Skylanders existed, and he wanted them. Like I knew he would.
Later I told Liz that the boy had seen his Christmas present, he just didn't know it. Then again he's pretty smart. Maybe he does ;)
He'll also possibly talk Skylanders up among his friends. Some of who may get it before Christmas, some for Christmas, and some may miss out altogether. I'm anticipating it to be a hot-ticket item this Christmas, in demand not just by young boys but those young-at-heart, and from talking to salespeons in both TRU and Gamestop that IS what I'm hearing, that 20-30 y/old gamers are buying it for themselves. This 42-year old gamer did...sort of :P
If Skylanders is the hot potato that I expect it to be, come Christmas time demand for the cross-platform compatible figures alone is going to be through the roof. And in the weeks after Christmas, maybe even more so.
"Daddy! There's a locked room in my game, Daddy! I can't get in without a Fire Skylander! Daddy! I need a Fire Skylander! DADDY! I WANT FIRE SLINGER, DADDY!!!"
Well played, Activision. Well played, indeed.