Whether you’re a gamer, parent or well… just your average Joe, chances are you’ve come across some form of collectable video game figures over the past few years. From Disney favourites to Spyro’s pals, the gimmick has literally exploded.
With Activision announcing that its Skylanders series has made over three billion dollars in sales over the years it’s almost surprising that not more publishers have gone down this route too. Disney obviously joined the market with its Infinity series two years prior proving lightning can indeed strike twice while Nintendo is the latest to take a stab at the collectable figurine idea. Whether you’re a fan of the idea of locking content behind physical objects or not, you have to admire just how savvy the few publishers that have been introducing the idea into their franchises have done so.
Just what is it about a collectable figuring that sends people into a frenzied panic? Of course you have the kids who will simply latch on to the next big trend, but in a surprising twist (to which I’m sure Activision never saw coming) gamers and collectors the world over jumped on the bandwagon too, at least as far as the first Skylanders was concerned. Suddenly figures were appearing on eBay at an inflated price. Shelves were cleared in minutes. The same can be said about Disney Infinity, a game that I remember being very tough to find a Sorcerer Mickey figure for.
Sure the figures themselves can unlock content within the games they were built for, but more importantly they look cool. I’ll be honest, the idea of training up Diddy Kong in Smash Bros or unlocking a new Mii outfit in Mario Kart 8 isn’t exactly the most inventive of ideas when it comes to the Amiibo, but it’s merely a means to an end. An excuse to keep releasing these figures which now seem to appeal more toward the collector. Seeing the entire twenty four strong catalogue of Super Smash Bros figures in a row certainly brings out the inner geek within every time I see it while I’m sure the same can be said about the Disney Infinity series.
It’s evident from seeing the availability of certain types of characters that customers out there are eager to get their hands on the lesser known faces. It makes sense when you think about it – why pick up a Mario figure (a character who is seen in games, on pencil cases, wrapping paper, soft toys and more all over the world) when you can pick up a Little Mac or Captain Falcon figurine in what is likely the only chance gamers might ever receive to do so.
Already we’ve seen Nintendo announce a new line of figures based on the Super Mario series in general so who’s to say what franchise might receive the treatment next. Already fans worldwide have stated their wish-lists, everything from Starfox to Xenoblade, Donkey Kong to F-Zero. If Nintendo are seeing the same sales figures we are, they’d be crazy not to venture down the route of more unique franchises.
Of course like anything in the gaming industry you always run the risk of killing a genre by saturating it to the point of fatigue. We’ve already seen such a thing happen with the musical instrument genre as well as (to an extent) the Call of Duty series with numbers on a decline with each passing year. As it stands, it doesn’t seem like the collectable figure market will slow down any time soon with Activision, Disney and Nintendo all reporting promising numbers for 2014 alone. How long that will sustain remains to be seen, but for the time being at least it’s certainly a good time to jump on board this money train for any publisher.