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Skylanders shouldn’t be embraced, it should be shunned

I’ve been mostly checked out of the MMO blogging world this past week but when I dropped in, it seemed like Skylanders had suddenly taken my “must read” list by storm. What’s more, it doesn’t seem to be on any merit of it’s own, but more of in the CCG, Gotta Catch ‘Em All, type way. That said, the gameplay could be fantastic and I’d still say Skylanders is should be shunned and certainly not encouraged.

In a world of exploitative DLC, Skylanders is probably the worst yet.  In case you happen to be late to the party, too, it essentially goes something like this: Pay $70 for a “starter kit” which features  several tiny action figures whose digital versions are already installed on the disk but unavailable. Stick the toys in a special box and connect it to the console. Bada bing, bada boom you just paid an extra ten bucks for some action figures. Not much different than buying a collector’s edition. The problem is that there are lots of other characters already on the disc too, but to access them you must first pay $8 for each little doll. The entire game is built around buying these extra little toys. At eight dollars a pop. Each.

This is worse than on-disc DLC; far worse. It’s a baby step into the realm of CCGing video games. If this is a hit, parents everywhere will again be pressure to buy another little doodad to keep up with the Jones’. What makes it worse than DLC, though, is that to access all of the content that you already paid for, you’re stuck buying 8 additional dolls. All the sudden “acceptable pricing” just jumped from $60 to $130. And there will be more. $130 is just the beginning, especially if it’s a hit. None of this would be a problem if the starter bundle wasn’t already $70.

It is absolutely stupifying that people actually think combining the CCG model with video games is a good idea. I respect that some people find this stuff affordable and fun. Let’s not send any messages to the industry, though, if you please. The DLC situation is bad enough; buying a game doesn’t really buy a game anymore because there’s a $15 character skin around the next corner or — gasp — an hour of story content probably better left on the cutting room floor. Giving developers yet another way to suck our wallets dry with the smallest effort possible is BAD for the industry and worse for gamers.

That said, I DO see kids loving this and if you buy it for your child, well, I can’t say I don’t understand. Making kids happy is a wonderful thing. Buying into this because it “calls to your inner child” only promotes something detrimental and harmful to yourself in the long run. Unless, of course, you like wasting money to get what’s already on the disc. In which case, I’m sure there are plenty of companies willing to sell you an extra mission or two for another $30. In every game you buy.

In short, Skylanders only pushes the perceived value of video games higher. Think Bobby Kotick won’t notice you’re invested $90 in the doll game? Think again.

 

11 comments

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  1. scrusi

    I don’t care much for Skylanders, action figures, or DLC, but I really wonder why people complain over and over again that there is content already on the disc that you have to pay to unlock. How is this in any way, shape, or form different from having to pay for downloadable content? What do I care whether the data is physically on the disk or comes to me through the tubes?

    The same goes for the hatred of zero-day DLC. Do you think other DLC isn’t planned ahead and purposefully not integrated into the game so that it can be sold on a later date? That’s how the entire DLC model works, no matter whether you actually have to download the content or not and whether you have to wait for it to be published. Love DLC or hate it (I lean towards the latter), the way of delivery makes no difference (unless internet access is a problem for you, in which case on-disc DLC would actually be preferable.)

    1. cerberus

      I completely agree with ‘scrusi’. Are you saying, for example, that if a development team works for two years on something, that they have to charge the same for two years worth of content that a team that has only provided one year worth of content does?

      Products should be (and are) judged by the market. If something offends you just because you know it’s already made (and therefore your right to have immediately!) yet unavailable, then don’t buy that product. If others see value where you don’t, that’s their choice.

    2. Chris

      I have no problem with DLC, except that by and large it seems second rate to the actual game. My problem is with the marketing approach. I’m not sure where you guys are from, but the “gotta catch em all” aspect of pokemon worked pretty well here in NY. Skylanders is trying the same thing and, for the kids that like this game the most, it’s exploitative of their desires and will put it solidly behind a paywall. If the game is popular, like the publisher would want it to be, this stuff becomes a competition between them. It is exactly how other “collectible” games are sold, i.e. bakugan, other action figure lines. But see, that’s fine because toys start cheap. Skylanders has a $70 wall ahead of it. So then we move into using that initial exploitation to make as big a dent in Mom and Dad’s wallet as possible.

      Yeah, that’s marketing and their right and all that, but it’s still a shitty thing to do. When I look at stuff like this, I can’t help but do it with some perspective from my work with kids. I’ll admit bias. I don’t like seeing stuff that hopes to penetrate childhood culture in a deceptively innocent but morally abject way.

      1. cerberus

        Ok. So setting aside the DLC issue, you appear to be upset about the cost to “catch em all”. You say the toys cost $8 and unlock content on the disc. I can walk into any toy store and find an $8 toy that doesn’t do anything. Which is a better value? And a $60 game versus a $70 game with presumably a toy included? This doesn’t seem like much of a ‘wall’ if the game is any good.

        I’m just tired of a couple of things: 1) people who feel entitled — “If it’s on the disc, I deserve it for free” and 2) parents who don’t do their jobs. I have two kids and there’s no way I would be ‘exploited’ by this. But if my kids wanted to spend their hard-earned allowance, then they could do their own cost/benefit analysis and maybe learn some lessons about trying to live beyond their means or working harder to get what they want.

        1. Chris

          I respect your points. It’s true that for $70 you get extra “content” in the form of the toy and in-game incarnation. That in itself is worth adding on to the cost of the game and adds value. No argument there. The wall I refer to is the barrier for the actual target audience for this title, elementary – middle school students and is for the purchases after the initial box. Generally, I’d think if a kid can convince their parents to buy them a $60 game, $70 isn’t much of a leap.

          You’re right in your second points, too. I don’t feel “entitled” to getting DLC content for free unless it’s pivotal to the full game experience, such as Catwoman in Batman: Arkham City (which is included with new copies). Whether or not it should be included under that box price, though, goes right down to the core of DLC. Is it important or an extra option for owners to get more from their experience? Skylanders is designed so, even if the game doesn’t emphasize purchasing more toys (and I have no idea if it does), the out-of-game, social competition component makes it important. It’s deceptive, yet, as you say, there’s parental responsibility coming into play here. That’s well and good but the ground floor effect is unchanged: if some kids get it and bring them into school, others feel left out. Then you have hurt feelings and Skylanders figures banned from the building. That’s how it’s gone with every other fad collector game.

          Parental responsibility is a true, important factor and I suspect a lot kids will be disappointed that their parents do their job and don’t buy them ‘X amount of dollars’ worth of toys. Parental responsibility and childhood culture aren’t 1:1, though, and those responsible parents may well fan the flames of their kid’s desire because that next figure is tantalizingly out the child’s reach.

          This is getting long-winded. I don’t have a problem day one DLC or not getting everything, though I admit that’s how I come off in the post. Hopefully that clarifies a little bit.

  2. cerberus

    I respect your points too, and I guess it really all comes down to where, as a parent, you land on this continuum. Life can be full of disappointment. Somebody will always be making more money, have a better car, own a nicer house, etc. than you do. If you shield your kid from all disappointment, then you are not preparing him/her to be an adult. Personally I’m much prouder of my son or daughter when they handle a setback gracefully rather than when they exult in a victory at someone else’s expense.

  3. Maxivik

    I’m a firm believer that there should be routes to unlock the content without money if you purchase the game. If kids want to play the meta game with the figurines then go for it, but it shouldn’t unlock content.

    Take for instance, League of Legends. There are in game routes to unlock characters, and their is a cash shop to expedite the process. Swap out the virtual purchases for the little figurines and it’d be the same thing, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. None of those forced purchases effect the content you are allowed to play.

    I really agree with Chris’ posts, I think it sets a very dangerous precedent if it succeeds. I’d rather avoid getting into a situation where there is always that one or two secret missions that you have to buy the trading cards or subscribe to god knows what to unlock. Vanity pets and perks are one thing, but playable content imo is another. Imagine if you had to pay an extra fee to unlock dungeons in wow that took extra effort for blizzard to create, so they charged a premium fee.

    Take what I say with a grain of salt, as i haven’t done any research other then what I read here.

  4. Xenus

    I do not agree with the ‘amg $8 for a DLC toy’ complaint. So at the moment skylanders is retailing for around £47 on all consoles. Okay, you are paying a little bit more than usual but you get three toys and the portal which are great for the price. I have seen collectors editions that cost more and have less in them. The portal at least glows when plugged into any usb and they at least have in-game functions as well as being visually appealing.

    So far I have the starter pack and one extra figure and tbh I am really enjoying the game. The game can be completed with just the three starter characters and all the achievements unlocked. However if you want to 100% the game you will have to invest in one character from each element.

    Okay, the cost may rise when you want additional characters but why is this a problem? Sure parents/players have to fork out more…but then again most childrens toys retail for more than $8 and do nothing else other than being a toy. This game has a variety of options which are available to the customer and I am not sure why everyone is so surprised that these cost money. You don’t buy a batcave for your kid then complain that you now have to buy the joker, two-face, robin, catwoman, penguin etc. just so your kid can get the 100% batman experience so why is this game any different? I would rather have 32 optional characters at a cost than play through a £35 game as one character.

    It just comes down to the consumer. If you would rather pay money for downloadable dlc then go for it. If you want to pay a little more money for physical dlc then why is that such a problem? If anything, you should be more concerned about dlc skins for guns/characters that add nothing to the game except cosmetic value. I may buy the other elementals and the expansion packs as the game itself is enjoyable. I will probably not get all the characters as they aren’t really needed and some look kinda poop. However, it comforts me to know that these toys can sit on the shelf looking pretty or be sold on after I have finished the game rather than being forgotten on my hard drive. At least this is DLC with resale value.

    Anyways…despite all the comments…If you don’t like it. Don’t buy it. End of discussion.

  5. tommy

    I think u all need to go out side more I mean really u buy 60 doller games all the time is a 10 doller leap big freakin deal u get extra shit few toys a portal an the game itself get over it its a fun plateformer an maybe its a collectable game as well shesh u ppl read to much into things

  6. Marc B

    I think you guys are all missing the bigger picture here tbh. The whole idea of these games and it’s characters is to provide fun and entertainment. So what if each character costs an extra £7 ? To be honest, Im happy to pay it just to see the look on my kids faces when they are given it. If I wasnt spending my money on these, it would only be spent on something else just as pointless.

    I earn it to spend it, and what better way to spend it than making my kids happy….

  7. Keny

    That’s how the entire DLC model works, no matter whether you actually have to download the content or not and whether you have to wait for it to be published. Love DLC or hate it (I lean towards the latter), the way of delivery makes no difference (unless internet access is a problem for you, in which case on-disc DLC would actually be preferable.) zombie games pc

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