Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 03, 2016
 
Skylanders Battlecast

I've been dipping my toes into Skylanders Battlecast,  a new iOS/Android game in which Skylanders characters battle against each other in a trading card game that strongly resembles Hearthstone. Now I'm a bit too old for the original Skylanders or similar toys-to-life genre to appeal to me, but I do understand the attraction for a child: Get a nice toy figurine *and* be able to use it in a video game, even by just bringing your toy over to a friend's house. However I can't understand why Skylanders Battlecast has physical cards for sale.

The Skylanders Battlecast cards can't be played as a game without a mobile platform. They can only be scanned in once, so you can't take them to a friend's house and play with them there. So why would you buy a $9.99 "Battle Pack" in real life and then scan all the cards instead of just buying a $9.99 virtual "Battle Pack" with the same cards? Cards don't make great toys, not a great a figurines. What child is going to build up scenes of battles on the carpet of his room using cards?

The only possible use I can see is for relatives to be able to buy a pack in a toy store and put it in a gift wrapper for a birthday or Christmas. But they can already do that with an iTunes / Google Play gift card, which is probably the better option because it isn't tied to a specific game.

Interestingly Activision seems to rather worried about their own physical cards. They can be scanned only once, so the company is worried that people post their newest cards on Facebook or YouTube and somebody scans the cards from the photographic image before the owner does. That is a potential customer service nightmare. So they even provide a trading shield with which you can show somebody a card while hiding part of the visual information necessary to scan it. They also obviously make less money from the physical cards, because they are more expensive to produce. So why make them at all and not just stick to virtual cards like Hearthstone does?

Comments:
I remember when I was a kid collecting trading cards was a thing long before Magic came along and made a game out of it. The cards sometimes came with packs of gum but often they just sold packs of cards on their own. Footballers were a perennial favourite but I nearly had a full set of classic horror movie cards at one stage.

Have modern kids become too sophisticated to just collect trading cards for their own sake?
 
I used to collect cards and stickers as a kid. Is it really that uncommon nowdays? Also, having a physical product, scanning it and becoming a digital item could feel 'magical' for children. Sure, it's mundane for a grownup, but for a kid it must be really exciting.

"What child is going to build up scenes of battles on the carpet of his room using cards?"

One with an active imagination? So... most of them maybe?
 
Most kids have a time limit for using electronic devices so giving them physical cards to swoon over when the laptop is off is rather nice.

I've seen Skylander toys and the video game played by a friends kids and gotta say it's a pretty awesome concept. The kids can play together, it's coop done right without split screen. The toys level up and you can take them to a friends house to play.

Just a nightmare for parents getting nagged into buying more and more and more of them xD
 
They are likely betting that people will pay more for a physical object than for in game goods despite all the caveats.
 
I can definitely see my friend's daughter valuing the physical cards + scan over just electronic cards. She'd have something to play with when it's not computer time, she can show the cards to her friends, and she could make up her own games with the cards.

From the marketing perspective, not only does having the physical cards in the store remind parents that it's something that can be purchased for the kid, it creates the ability for the child to see them in the store and ask for them right then and there as an impulse buy.

Plus, kids can spend their allowance on physical cards at the store far easier than they can transfer their allowance to an electronic format to spend in the online portion of the game.
 
Advertising where the customer pays for the advertising.
 
Oh my... Skylanders. My boys LOVED them, we had a the first 3 episodes for Xbox360 and a huge collection (79 characters). I guess it was maybe the most expensive game I/we've ever had. Fortunately I managed to sell them online while they were still a mania here in my country. Right now they're not really popular anymore.

A friendly advice: don't let your kids discover the Skylanders!
 
http://time.com/4348392/skylanders-imaginators-hirshberg/

addresses mobile (not a technical issue, but a sales issue, app store vs toy store)
 
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