By John Orr
Videogame makers Activision, Toys for Bob and Vicarious Visions have developed, I think, the holy grail of such products. It is "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure."
My son Riley had been agitating to get this game, including showing me some links on merchant sites. I saw a video game with some toys. I saw a high price. I said no. Santa also said no.
My thinking was that it was probably just some overpriced game with cheesy toys that he would forget about after playing the game for a few days.
He is a master videogamer and beats all the games he plays. He is 10 years old, after all.
But … Christmas day came, and various relatives gave him money, and his mother and I agreed he could spend it as he wished. It went to the game "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure."
Which, it turns out, is pretty cool, in the tech-nerd sense of the word, and something that will probably make a lot of money for its developers.
The game itself is the usual kind of colorful adventure quest, with objectives, challenges, adventures, puzzles and so forth. The trick of it is that players must have the little toys of their characters, which sit on a peripheral called the "Portal of Power."
The game comes with three of the action figures - each of which records its own accomplishments in the game. Put the toy on the peripheral, it joins the game. Put two toys on the peripheral and you can team up with a pal or fight against a pal.
What's really cool is that the toys can be used on peripherals connected to other types of game consoles.
Riley had wanted the game for the Nintendo 3DS, but when he got to the story with his Christmas money, that version was sold out. So he got it for the Xbox 360, which turned out to be a good choice anyway, because he and his mother were able to play the game together easily.
Later, if he gets the game for the 3DS, or maybe visits a friend who has the game for a Sony PS3, he can bring his Skylander characters and join the game there.
What makes it a money-minting game - beyond the initial game price, which runs in the $60 to $70 range, is the buying of the extra game pieces. Each character ranges in price from about $7 to $10, and there are 37 of them.
Riley now has six of that characters. Donations readily accepted, if you want to help feed his interest in this game. On our family budget, I don't foresee him getting the other 31 characters any time soon.
Given the electronics involved, and the expense of developing them to begin with, the toys aren't just 39 cents worth of plastic. Still, you gotta figure the profit margin is healthy.
"Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure" website
Shop for Skylanders stuff at Amazon.com