Despite all my ranting before E3 last year, I think Skylanders is actually a pretty decent game. The last time I wrote about it, I said I wasn't going to buy more than 13 figures. I now own over 20….
That doesn't mean I think Skylanders is the future of video games, however. It was fairly predictable that if Activision's mad attempt at selling a $60 game and $200-plus worth of interactive toys did well at all that other publishers would leap on the opportunity. Now rumors of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Mario, and Pokémon titles using radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips in collectable figurines are popping up all over the Internet. Nintendo's Wii U has an RFID sensor built into its strange tablet controller, making all of these rumors a thousand times more likely. Well, at least the Pokémon rumor.
Just like dance mats and plastic instruments, consumers will hit a wall when it comes to buying a line of action figures for every new game targeted at their children. Skylanders stands out not because of this gimmicky use of toys, but because it is an actually enjoyable Spyro game after nearly 10 years of totally crap ones. On top of that, it's a light introduction to dungeon crawling, stat management, and co-op teamwork.
But soon enough we won't remember any of this about Skylanders. It'll just be that horrible toy game that started another stupid phenomenon. Stores across the land will dedicate massive amounts of space to these terrible products until the bottom inexplicably falls out of the market just when the technology gets interesting.
Well, since this future is inevitable and I don't want to try my hand at creating alternate timelines (and I don't have the six friends and dice to do it), might I suggest a game? If you're going to pump out plastic crap for the masses, please make a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Skylanders-esque adventure.
Imagine it: You guide Twilight Sparkle and her friends on their quest to explore the magic of friendship. Dark, monstrous things lurk on the horizon and only companionship and cooperation can defeat them. You know, like Skylanders, but with god damn ponies.
Or it could be a sort of Viva Pinata game where you add new ponies to Ponyville by buying expansion kits. You can throw parties if you buy Pinkie Pie and you can start a thriving fashion business if Rarity is in your collection. Let's not forget all the pseudo-Harvest Moon possibilities when Apple Jack and the Sweet Apple Acres expansion turn up.
The thing is, I imagine this would be a better alternative to the abhorrent My Little Pony toys on the market right now. Google them. Alright, fine, I did that for you. Check this picture out:
That's supposed to be Princess Celestia, the elegant god-pony of Equestria (shut up I watch the show). This is what she looks like on the show:
See? Just terrible. Toy designers can't even make the characters the same color anymore. Celestia isn't the only easy target, just the easiest to show. Other toys feature pitiful re-colors of the same pony shape. Rainbow Dash and FlutterShy are both pegasus (pegasi? pegasuses?) but have distinct personalities that change how they look. Many of the playsets featuring both of these characters have one pegasus model completely devoid of individuality.
A video game might change the horrible disconnect between the My Little Pony show and toys. I'd like to think they'd put a tiny bit more effort into making them actually look like the characters they represent.
Of course, out of all the horrible ideas game developers will toss around in regard to RFID technology, My Little Pony won't be one of them. Instead we'll see tons of super heroes, "boy" cartoons, and undoubtedly more Skylanders on the market all without a single pony.
That's a shame. I know of at least three adults who would buy every figure in the series just so they could max-out their Ponyville stats. Oh yes. My grand design also grades your virtual world based on how many ponies you have. The rating metric is called “happiness.”
Good thing I don't actually make games. I'm evil.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!