Activision’s brainy toys take over

June 5, 2011

At E3, the huge video game trade show that kicks off in LA on Tuesday, the main attention usually falls on first-person shooter titles aimed at teens or young male gamers. Games targeted at children can easily get lost under the bright lights.

Activision Blizzard, known for “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” is trying to change this by backing its new kids game, “Skylanders” with a hefty marketing push at E3.

“It’s getting the full triple-A treatment,” said Laird Malamed, a senior vice president of development at Activision.

“I don’t rememeber a triple-A product launch of new intellectual property like this,” said Malamed, who added that he helped launch the first “Call of Duty” game in 2003.

“Skylanders,” which is aimed at 6- to 10-year-olds, features action figures that come to life onscreen when you hook them up to consoles. A chip inside the figure stores its characters’ achievements and progress within the game. “Skylanders,” which also goes by the nickname “toys with brains” was written by Toy Story scribes Alek Sokolow and Joel Cohen.

While Activision first announced the game at New York’s toy fair in February, it revealed ahead of E3 that the same toys can be used with all consoles–Nintendo’s Wii, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation3. If one child is playing the game at home on an Xbox, for example, he or she could bring the toy to a friend’s house and then load up the same character on a PlayStation– a move the company called a “first-ever cross-platform gameplay experience.”

Activision is expecting big things from this game centered on little toys. Malamed described the new franchise as a “long-term play,” and even used it in the same breath as the company’s flagship, “Call of Duty.”

“We said, let’s treat this as if it’s ‘Call of Duty’ for kids, in terms of the production values, the marketing edge and the packaging and quality,” Malamed said.

The game launches next fall.

Reuters photo of two Skylanders characters

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Pretty good idea. 4.html The whole “pokemon” aspect of collection will probably be the bane of parents whose kids “gotta have ’em all,” but this has some potential.

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