GamesBeat: There’s a belief that the toys-to-life market has slowed down, after Disney did shut down Infinity. What’s your own feeling on this?

Reiche: I believe we create our own destiny. If we make exciting games that inspire people’s imaginations, that make them think, “Wow, that’s magical” — we can get as much success as we earn, as we deserve. But that only happens if you push the work you’re doing and surprise people.

This year, all good things are coinciding in October. We’re releasing our game. We’re releasing the creator app. The TV show comes out on the 28th. It all looks good. We’re hopeful that we have—we’re going to create a little phenomenon. Maybe a big one? Since our first game came out, I haven’t been more anxious and excited to see what happens.

We’ve worked hard to make 200 Skylanders here. But a couple of days after the game comes out, there will be a million Skylanders. We may not have made the best one. Someone out there—like Steampumpkin. I didn’t make that guy. He’s great. He’s a great character, on that T-shirt. I wouldn’t mind having that T-shirt. I can’t wait to see what people do. They’ll take their characters and put them up on Instagram and Facebook. I want to make sure we get a chance to show those to everyone.


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Skylanders Imaginators Hoodsickle character.

Above: Skylanders Imaginators Hoodsickle character.

Image Credit: Activision

GamesBeat: Is this all available right on launch day?

Reiche: Yeah. We’ll be releasing the promotional 3D prints over time. But a lot of it—it’ll be a big push right at the beginning. We want everyone to get excited, to understand what we’re creating, and put it under the tree.

We have different value options and different availability options. These will be a lot more limited, availability-wise. Shirts and cards are easier.

GamesBeat: What if you wanted to create, say, 30 of these, something like that? Could you order that many?

Reiche: I don’t know the answer to that yet. If you had access, before the limit expired—the details on that I’m not 100 percent sure of. I don’t know that we are imposing limits. I’ll get back to you on that. But we’re doing this through Shapeways, and the models that you create will be available to you on Shapeways if you want to do something else with them. If you want to print out a solid silver version, you can do that. The fact that it’s playable, though, that’s something we’re reserving. But we’re not trying to—this is something you’ve created and we want you to have access to it.

GamesBeat: How does this compare to the quality you can do with what’s released in toy stores?

Reiche: Injection molding is 100 years old at this point. There are things it can do that we can’t yet do with 3D printing. This is a technology that’s reliable, that is available around the world, and that is practical. But there are things—it isn’t transparent yet. We’re talking with leading-edge 3D printing creators with new 3D printing technologies. It’s not far off that you’ll be able to get something that looks indistinguishable from an injection-molded toy in many ways. But it’s not at a scale yet that allows us to work with it and let kids enjoy it. It’s moving fast, though.

There’s a bunch of interesting angles to this. The game and the experience and how it can impact kids’ imaginations is one of them. But just the relationships we’ve built, the technologies, we’ve built, the communications systems—the behind-the-scenes magic, how the ride is put together, is really interesting. I hope people get into that subject.

GamesBeat: Could you theoretically print to your own 3D printer, if you already have one?

Reiche: I don’t know the answer to that yet. It depends on whether you can download from Shapeways and then manipulate that into your own format. I’m not sure of the answer. I hope the answer is yes. I’d love it if you could do that. I want people making awesome things that we didn’t imagine. The ownership – “I made this and I’m proud of it” – is a pretty great idea.

GamesBeat: It seems like it’s not infinitely malleable, but did you figure what was enough as far as how customizable it could be?

Reiche: We wanted everybody to be able to make a character that was unique. Not that people couldn’t replicate it if they knew your recipe, but you could very rapidly combine things such that it’s unlikely that other people have done it as well. Because there’s the audio chirping, we think people will be embedding those recordings into YouTubes and sharing their recipes in a bunch of different ways.

We needed to have an interface and a system that a five-year-old, for whom this is their first big console game, could have a satisfying experience and make something that they liked. But at the same time, someone like me who wants to spend 45 minutes making their character just right could have all that control.

We’ve worked on creation systems before over the years and it’s a tough balance. If you offer people too many details all at once, sometimes they just detach. If you don’t provide any structure and let them learn the interface over time, it isn’t very successful. We needed to make sure—with randomize you come up with crazy-looking stuff. You’ll easily get something no one’s ever done before. Steampumpkin, I’ve never seen that one before.

We have a distribution group in our email here that’s just, “This is what I’ve made!” They’re hysterical. It’s Activision-wide. It’s almost like a challenge. Someone did a series of—are you familiar with Bizarro, the Superman character? People started making parodies of Skylanders. They’d take the actual Skylander and make a silly parody of it with our system. It was intentionally made to look like a goofy version of the original. They not only were making their own characters, but they were enjoying making fun of ours too. People care enough about Eyebrawl to make this joke version, down to the looks and the name and the tagline. It’s really clever.

When you use color and the aura effects, you can really transform what we intended. What we thought might have been a crazy-looking demonic form, when they add all kinds of pretty colors, it turns into this goofy sort of fairy version.

GamesBeat: Where did the audio encoding technology come from?

Reiche: We were looking for a solution. We thought about using QR codes on screen, but we’d have to get people to point at the screen and hold it right. So what’s a system you can communicate? We used to have acoustic modems, right? We went and found an app called Chirp, which initially did something much more limited. We called these guys and said, “Look, we like your technology. We need it to do more. Can you do that for us?” We got into a relationship for them and they expanded the tech for us.

Mysticat character in Skylanders Imaginators.

Above: Mysticat character in Skylanders Imaginators.

Image Credit: Activision

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