Toys-to-Life games only ‘scratching the surface’

Jeff Poffenbarger is one of the men who came up with the idea of bringing people’s physical toys to life in a video game.

He helped create Skylanders, one of the biggest and most loved franchises in the toys-to-life genre.

Skylanders and competitors like Lego Dimensions have so far focused on using the technology to appeal to a younger audience.

But speaking to Newsbeat Jeff says: “Toys-to-life, as a concept, has a lot of legs”.

Skylanders create your own character tool

In Skylanders players place a physical toy onto a platform linked to their console and that character is then playable on screen.

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Since 2011 mainly younger gamers have bought and played with a variety of heroes exploring and defending the magical world of Skylands.

But could we see this technology used in more mature games in future?

The senior executive producer at Skylanders developer Toys for Bob tells us: “I think for something like toys-to-life we’re just scratching the surface, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

“There are lots of different directions it can go in.”

Skylanders gameplay

For now though Jeff is focused on the next game set in the Skylands: “I’m excited about what we’re doing and that what our focus is.”

Instead of a set of pre-designed heroes like previous titles, Skylanders: Imaginators allows players to create their own characters in the game.

“Since we first released Skylanders (in 2011) we’ve received fan art, drawings from kids saying they want this in the game,” he says.

“It was a no brainer for us to say, ‘we want to give the portal-masters, the players, the ability to create their own Skylanders’ because that’s what they want to do.”

The genre has come a long way since the first time Jeff and the team managed to bring a toy to life.

“The first time we did that was an absolutely magical experience.

Skylanders gameplay

“It made sense to everyone and we knew we had something special,” he explains.

And other companies took notice, soon you had Nintendo Amiibo, Lego Dimensions and Disney Infinity offering similar experiences tied in with big name characters.

Jeff says: “Certainly competitors and everything else was not something we were thinking of when when we created the game.

“It really came from trying to bring together two things we love, we love making games but also we love toys.”

The future of the genre has been brought in to question recently with the news that Disney were pulling the plug on their toys-to-life product Disney: Infinity.

Jeff says that they’re not paying too much attention to what other companies are doing: “I think there was a level surprise with that (Disney’s decision).

“Putting a game out there is a lot of work, a lot of hours and certainly we’ve just been focused on delivering the best Skylanders game for 2016.”

Toys for Bob are still intending to invest in the genre, Jeff told us: “We’re confident that we have a strong fan base.

“Every year when we have a new innovation and we’re not only confident that were speaking to that fan base, but also to gamers and kids who play games and want an outlet to explore where their imagination can take them.”

Skylanders Imaginators is released on PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, on 14 October

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