Skylanders Imaginators has a new way to engage its players: enabling you to make an action figure, T-shirt, and playing card. And I have taken advantage of this to create my own character: Fire Smasher.
It is not particularly inspired as far as 3D-printed toy characters go, but it is my own. As humble as my Skylander is, this is quite possibly the beginning of an era of mass customization for toys, technology, and video games. As you can see, the developers of the $3 billion game franchise decided to finally let fans take charge.
Fans have wanted this ever since the original Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure debuted in 2011. Paul Reiche, the president and cofounder of Toys For Bob, has been getting thousands of letters from fans. He showed me a few from a pile of suggestions for new Skylanders characters, with lots of drawings. My creation was quite forgettable, and I barely remember what I created. This is all part of Activision’s bid to restore some growth to the toys-to-life market, which has declined with the demise of Disney’s Infinity platform.
“This year we decided to make innovation out of the player’s imagination,” said Reiche in an interview with GamesBeat in August.
As I discovered, you can create everything about your Skylander’s character. You have to get your hands on a creation crystal (either buy it separately or get it with each copy of the game). You set the crystal on the portal, and that gives you access to the customization engine. It has 10 elements and 10 different battle classes that let you create variations on a theme. You set the element and battle class for your character.
The battle classes include character types such as Quick Shot or Ninja. You can choose body types, colors, facial features, weapons, and clothing. Over time, you collect more options and so can go back and revise your character. You can even change the character’s voice and the catch phrase the character repeats often. You can go into battle with colorful spandex, if you wish.
“What we are doing is introducing the depth, you would find in a mature role-playing game, but in a way that is accessible and immediate,” Reiche said. “It gives the player the power to control the moment.”
As I traveled the Skylands with my character, I took a selfie.
The game has a guest star, Crash Bandicoot, as well as his nemesis, Dr. Neo Cortex. Crash unlocks a new territory, the Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands level. You can get a free Kaos toy (he’s a long-time series villain) with preorder and purchase of a $75 Starter Pack. I played a bunch of the Crash level, and it has side-scrolling or forward-running platform challenges that resemble the original Crash Bandicoot game. You can buy the Crash pack, dubbed Thumpin’ Wumpa Islands Adventure Pack, this holiday season for $30.
Skylanders now has 300 characters. But this fall, it could have an infinite number.
“We can’t wait to see what people create,” Reiche said.
Well, maybe he isn’t too excited to see what I created.
Earlier this week, Activision released the mobile app, Skylanders Creator. You can use this to transfer an existing character from the video game, share that character, or create a new one. I started using it to create a new character, but it crashed on me before I could complete that one.
But Activision saved my creation from an earlier play session and sent it out to me. The character, Fire Smasher, is like a green goblin, and it is in its own plastic case. You can make out the full image of the character on the T-shirt.
Transferring a character from the video game to the app uses a cool audio technology, where the game produces a series of beeps that represent a digital code. The mobile device listens for that code and then reproduces the creation inside the phone. Then you can share that image as you wish.
It’s not clear how many toys you can order, as quantities are limited by how fast Shapeways can produce the 3D-printed custom toys. The figures are in full color, posed on a base, and enclosed in a clear protective dome. I got the toy, T-shirt, and card as well as a letter from Toys For Bob.
My Imaginator appears in full color across the front of the T-shirt with the character’s Battle Class.