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access_time January 17, 2012 at 8:23 AM in Culture by John Speerbrecker

Speerfactor: How I Love/Hate the Skylanders

In the beginning there was this little game being shown at E3 that had toys sitting next to the visual displays. When speaking to the PR rep, it had just seemed like it would be nothing more than toys that you could buy that kind of did something with a video game but it was not really clear how. Myself, being a sucker for collectible anything kept this on my radar for the next few months so when I was asked to come to the Toys for Bob studio, I jumped on the chance to cover it.

In my opinion, this has been one of the most ambitious ventures that we have seen in years. One that has not only been taking something that I love (Toys) and mixing it with a video game, It doesn’t hurt that it is not totally a bad game either.

Enough about the love letter to Skylanders that I tend to go into writing, instead I invite you to endure the hatred that I have of this game at this point in time.

Before I start making this rant, let me just say that I really enjoy this game, and I’m a grown-ass man with a wife of ten years. No children at this point in time so to answer your question, Yes, I feel totally weird shopping for these toys all the time.

What I love about this game is that every toy that has been made has an integral part of completing the game to 100%. Not only does having more Skylanders mean having more lives during the game, but each character unlocks a new bonus level (Heroic challenge) where completing it means that your character will be granted a bonus to one of their skills. So in order to have the most powerful Skylander, you will want ALL OF THEM. To date I have 11 of them and still want to complete the collection, in other words, 21 left to go…FML

Here comes the problem that I have with the game. I CANNOT FIND THEM ANYWHERE! As much as I love this game, I have spent hundreds of dollars in gas and time searching for these things. (see pic) As you can see, my travels have taken me from downtown San Francisco all the way out past Sacramento just to find these toys. The game was released in early October of last year and I have a feeling that many companies did not prepare for what was going to happen when this game hit during the holiday season. In each store that I traveled to, I was greeted to empty shelves and peg-hooks showing the ghosts of the toys that used to be there. If any of you are familiar with how merchandising within stores works, space is generally purchased by the companies to get prime position to have their products featured.

In the first months, the fixtures were full and robust featuring all of the toys and expansion packs that were available at the time. Now it is just an empty shell of its former glory echoing the ghosts of what it used to be.

Me being the smart consumer and thinking that all of the knowledge that goes into the decisions that buyers for companies make had to  hope that they were smart enough to figure out that this was going to be something that was going to blow up for the upcoming holiday season. Apparently, What happened was one of or a combination of two things: either the buyers did not purchase enough for their companies or there was a shortage in the manufacturing chain or both happened.

With toys, the profit margin is much higher than it is in video games so it would seem to make more sense to have the toys readily available. But, at the same time, one could compare these to the frenzies that we see when there is a new pair of Air Jordans released without the robberies and murder that go along  with it. The shoes are relatively cheap to make and they could produce a ton of them, but in order to keep them special, they have to limit the production to keep the demand up.

I think one of the most interesting parts of this product is that it did not have the established brand image to go along with it other than its association with Spyro, who really does not play an anchoring role in the story. In a matter of a few months, they have generated a frenzy that I can honestly say that I have never seen, and at the same time I’m pissed and annoyed that the only chance that I have of finding these toys is either camping out in front of these stores or just biting the bullet and going online to pay three times the retail price. Since I am too stubborn to pay too much for these, I am holding off on purchasing them on Ebay. I kind of think that Toys R Us has done the right thing to charge more than the MSRP for the figures that they sell.  That, at least, keeps some of the ebay rats at bay to some extent.

So now we are entering the ebayification of the game which brings even more questions. Are the toys selling out to actual users or to the ebay vultures that camp out in the retail stores just to make a profit?

What the hell am I saying,!? I still haven’t finished Skyrim!


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