We felt what you might call a minor disturbance in the Force when Activision released its now wildly successful Skylanders game last year. In case you don’t know about it, Skylanders : Spyro’s Adventure is a toy/video game hybrid that comes with a ‘Portal of Power’ that connects to a console or computer, and toys that carry all the game characters information.
You get your characters in the game by buying the toys – and of course there are various kinds with various powers – and the two are totally linked. It’s an admittedly clever idea that we’re mystified no one else has really latched onto – combining video games and toys the way Skylanders does is a no brainer really – but we were slightly surprised at the lack of response by gamers as a whole. Skylanders is just the kind of thing that we’d expect gamers to be wary of, linking content to items you have to continuously buy the way it does, but because it’s a kids game and focused on toys – which have always been that way – no one really paid attention. Given Skylanders is what it is, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but we did wonder how long it would take for another publisher to try something like it for a main stream game. And we wondered what kind of reaction making gamers buy something large and gaudy just to get game content would garner.
It didn’t take long as last week EA announced that Mass Effect 3 figures were on the way that would have exclusive Mass Effect 3 DLC content attached to them. These, by the way, look to be figures that were part of an earlier wave of Mass Effect figures, only this time with Mass Effect multiplayer DLC attached to them. Looks like a great way to stock clear to us. We’ve never been big game tat or game toy collectors, but we can totally see the appeal for some people. Yet at the same time we felt a much larger disturbance in the Force at the announcement. I think I even used the words, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.’
The reaction of the gaming community was varied, and for our part as we’ve slowly reflected on the idea, just how good or bad it is really depends on how much that DLC affects the game for those who aren’t interested in buying plastic figures. What’ll be key in our minds is whether or not they’ll be any other way of getting hold of this DLC other than through this figures, and most importantly how powerful and how much of a game changer some of this stuff will be.
If player with figures end up getting vastly better weapons and upgrades, that’ll be enough to send many gamers – including us – into paroxysms of rage. Why? Because what that’ll effectively be doing is splitting ME3’s multiplayer community, and be the most expensive DLC we’ve ever seen – these figures are around $17 each (no word yet on UK price or release).
You might say that’s a silly idea and we’re fairly sure that whatever comes with the figures will be release separately for download after, but we’re watching this one very closely, and you should be too. If it’s a success and, here is the caveat, Bio Ware does manage to get away with having any of that content totally exclusive to the figures and only the figures – watch out. That could be the thin end of the wedge that ends up with everyone having to buy bits of tat they don’t want just to get game content – which is a terrifying idea. It’s unlikely to happen, and you might call us paranoid, but that’s our job, to watch trends as they emerge and speculate about where they might go – besides we get to say, ‘I told you so,’ if it does get out of hand further down the track.