Skylanders’ giant-sized success

How Activision has successfully merged physical toys and a virtual world with its massively lucrative Skylanders franchise.
September 1, 2012

To say the Skylanders franchise has had a good year so far would be a huge understatement. Between January and the end of April, the Toys For Bob-developed Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure was the number-one bestselling console and handheld video game title worldwide based on revenue (including toys and accessories), according to The NPD Group, GfK and Charttrack. Sales of Activision’s individual Skylanders toy figures have also exceeded 25 million units at US retail since the launch of the property last October.

Whether you believe the concept is a cash-grab disguised as innovation or not, Skylanders has managed to successfully merge a virtual world and physical toys across video game consoles and continues to resonate with kids.

Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure and its soon-to-be-released sequel Skylanders Giants (out this fall) allow kids to bring physical toys to life digitally through the game’s portal of power and feature battles, puzzles, treasure hunts and rewards. In-game character histories can also be transferred across platforms, adding a seamless element to the gaming experience for kids.

Both titles are available across platforms including Mac and PC computers and Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation3 consoles. Giants, however, will have advanced integration to include mobile devices, the online Skylanders Universe world, and the Nintendo 3DS handheld system through developer n-Space. The sequel will also feature 16 new giant-sized characters and an element called LightCore, where Skylanders toys and in-game characters light up when transported across the portal of power.

Alex Ness, Toys for Bob’s chief of staff, says Skylanders’ success has come from more than just the creation of a cool, original concept.

“With Skylanders, we gave players the chance to actually bring their toys to life in a video game. But that’s just the hook,” he says.

“If we didn’t deliver quality toys and a quality game, we would probably be relegated to nothing more than just a gimmick.”

Looking to ride the wave of success, the IP now boasts more than 100 licensees worldwide and has expanded across mobile with Skylanders Cloud Control and books and apps from Penguin.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at


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