One Man vs the Skylanders: Dammit Activision… Shut Up and Take My Money!


A strange thing happened recently as I strolled the aisles of my local Costco perusing for this year’s stock of Christmas presents. I came upon a fancy display of brightly coloured toys known as Skylanders. The third game in this popular franchise, Skylanders: SWAP Force, was staring me down and sapping out my will to say no and walk away. My wife at my side we looked at each other and shared a moment. Each of us knew what the other was thinking without having to say a word – Dammit Activision, shut up and take my money!

For the few of you who may not know what Skylanders is all about the basic premise is that you get a cool little portal that you can place toy characters on and they magically transport on to your television and into a game for you to control. I’d say if you’re out of the loop on this one you’re either really old or you never leave your house.

Look at all of them…. LOOK!!

Approximately 15 minutes and $160 later we walked out of the store with a SWAP Force starter pack and eight new Skylanders characters. How is it that two adults were so weak to the charms of these little painted figurines? It’s a kids game right? We told ourselves that as we shuffled through the parking lot back to the car. Oh the kids are going to be so excited when they see this! I can’t wait to see their faces! Perhaps we knew it at the time but didn’t want to admit it to ourselves but this was just as much for us as it was for them. I bet you were thinking to yourself ‘Oh what a great Christmas present!’ but the fact is that the box was barely holding together as we ripped it apart while stepping through the door of the house and to be quite honest, the kids were still at school. They can have different things at Christmas because Dad wants to play Skylanders right bloody now.

Should I be ashamed of this? A grown ass man playing a game marked for kids 6 and up. I’ve got 30 years on that 6 year old and I’m giddy like a school girl watching these stupid little creatures come to life on my TV. My wife who is the furthest thing from a gamer has two game addictions now it seems in SWAP Force and Skylanders: Lost Islands. Those bastards at Activision have figured out a way to turn non-gamers into gamers. BRILLIANT.

There’s no denying that Activision stumbled on to one of gaming’s biggest cash cows when they released the first Skylanders adventure. Let’s take the popularity of collecting them all in Pokémon but charge them for every single adorable character. Another two games later they’ve got a library of over 100 characters and their limited edition even more expensive rare variants! The success is so obvious that we’ve seen a copycat released in the form of Disney Infinity. In theory Disney Infinity should be the biggest money pit in gaming seeing as it operates on the exact same principles but with the world famous Disney characters as their heroes. I’m not sure what the numbers look like yet for the folks over at Disney but it seems like Skylanders has firmly entrenched themselves as the industry leaders in the ‘toys-to-life’ genre.

Don’t forget the add on Adventure Pack!

A few years back it seemed like you couldn’t get away from games with crazy accessories. You had that awful Tony Hawk game with the skateboard, Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, Rock Band… all games that had big peripherals that are now cluttering up basements worldwide. We have Activision to thank for all but one of the previous games listed. As the popularity died down on all of these expensive single purchases however, Activision cleverly moved into a position where all of the accessories would be ‘optional’ and a relatively decent priced starter pack would get you going. Bring on the Skylanders. Now as a gamer I could see right through their little ruse right from the start but to an uneducated parent or grandparent buying a gift for the children in their lives, well they fell right into Activision’s dirty trap. Sure, you could play the game with only these three characters if you REALLY want to but what about all these areas that can only be unlocked with a type of character you don’t have? Better get your ass to Toys R’ Us Mom because little Mikey doesn’t have an Undead Skylander to 100% this level.

Who knows how long this fad will grip the hearts and minds of kids across the world? Is it only a matter of time before all of these loveable plastic warriors take up the same space in the basement as your old Rock Band drum kit? Probably. In the meantime of course parents of these kids will continue to shell out their hard earned cash at 10 to 20 bucks a pop just to put a smile on that little toothless grin they love so much. I guess one saving grace is the fact that you should be able to find some pre-owned characters from this game and the previous ones in some local retailers and that all of them are playable in the newest iteration. That will likely save you a bit of cash but still… lots of characters, lots of money!

I hope the entire team of creators for the Skylanders enjoy spending all of my money. As much as I’d like to say that I’m impervious to the charms of their dragons and ninjas and swappable unstoppable rattle snakes it’s a sad reality that I’m not. I’m a 36 year old man and I play Skylanders and I can’t keep lying to myself that it’s “for the kids”. I play with toys designed to engage my 5 year old. Only yesterday I acquired a total of 11 new SWAP force characters and already this morning I’m hunting down some of the ones I don’t have on one of my favourite gaming websites. Once again I’ve been beat, and deep down I totally love it. Dammit Activision… SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!