Spyro and the USB Portal
If you are not familiar with Skylanders you should be because it has the potential to change the landscape of gaming and how we acquire DLC. Skylanders is the latest Spyro game from Activision, but that really isn’t important, what is important is how you play and consume Skylanders. Skylanders’s approach to gameplay isn’t completely original, but is something that will surely spawn many clones of its own (if not direct sequels). It’s the concept of “Physical DLC” that at first glance looked really insignificant to me, but then after further contemplation floored me. Skylanders exhibits a fusion between digital and tangible products that is pioneering a new way to consume and use DLC. Excuse me for my ambiguity; let me explain to you how Skylanders works (it is not terribly complicated).
Skylanders is just like most other E-rated adventure games, but you have a series of “Skylanders” (the heroes if you will) at your disposal to play with. The Skylanders you play with are actual mini action figures with a code on the bottom of them and each has unique powers and attributes. Then through a USB device or “portal” (which is included in the Starter Pack) you place your Skylander on it and the game processes the data on the bottom of the figure (then your adventure begins). This is done for new adventures and quests as well (I believe they have a Pirate Adventure and some others available for purchase). Your character data and progress is saved on your Skylander figure, which brings about the major caveat of this game; if you lose your Skylander you lose your progress, but hopefully that will not be a major issue for most. This is all well and dandy, but my major fascination with this game lies more on the business side of things and if Skylanders is really successful (which it is looking like it will be) it has the potential to shake things up. Just bear with me a little longer I am going to make a point.
Skylanders uses a proprietary form of DLC that must be purchased just like any other form of DLC, but it is the physical part that obviously differentiates it from its digital brethren. Activision has effectively cut out the middleman for DLC. Xbox Live and PSN which usually see a cut of DLC from publishers is getting axed via this business model. Some will think “Leave it to Activision to screw more people”, but this is probably the most original thing they have done in quite some time and they should be applauded for it. Besides having a very aggressive business model behind it, Skylanders also explores a nostalgic realm for me that most games are incapable of doing.
Skylanders is so refreshing to me because albeit being a huge gamer I still find it very important for kids to play with action figures and other toys. I truly believe that imagination is something that is dying amongst many of today’s youth. Too many kids jump right into video games and completely abandon the breadth of experiences that are offered through toys. Legos, G.I. Joe, Batman, Star Wars and Power Rangers toys were just as important to me as my NES was. I was able to experience so much more through my own imagination and I believe that I am who I am because of it. In conjunction with playing sports and gaming I dedicated time to building massive structures with Legos and playing out stories that I created for use with my action figures [Batman and G.I. Joe crossovers were pretty epic]. I am not saying that Skylanders goes to these levels of imagination, but it is moving in the right direction and I fully support further exploration of this game’s design.
Activision has something special on their hands with Skylanders and I hope they treat it well. It is creating a proper bridge between action figures and video games and I think that it could illicit some stimulation in today’s younger crowd and maybe get them to explore other things besides video games. Maybe I am reaching too far, but I remain hopeful.
What do you think about the concept behind Skylanders? To you think it is a good idea or just another gimmick from Activision? Sound off in the comments section and let us know what you think. As always you can follow us on Twitter @GamersAbstract and like us on Facebook for more content.