Activision hopes new Skylanders game is a holiday hit

Sun Oct 21, 2012 3:11am EDT
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By Malathi Nayak

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Activision Blizzard is betting big on children's fantasy adventure game "Skylanders" this holiday, with the launch of a new title on Sunday and plans for more mobile versions of the console game.

The franchise's second offering, "Skylanders: Giants", will hit stores in North America following the success of "Skylanders: Spyro's Adventures" whose U.S. sales have exceeded 286 million game packs, toys and accessories since its 2011 release.

Activision, which is better known for hardcore shooter games, is trying to stem the loss of subscribers from its bread-and-butter games like "World of Warcraft" and diversify revenue sources. Analysts say the "Skylanders" franchise can generate sales not just from games but also toys and licensed merchandise from apparel to bicycles.

"Skylanders" counts among 2012's top-selling games, helped by a fairly novel concept. It is sold with physical toys that come to life on screen when they are connected to consoles such as Microsoft Corp's Xbox or Sony Corp's PlayStation.

When figurines - priced from $10 to $15 - are placed on a small electronic portal, a chip inside them interacts with the console and records a player's achievements and progress.

That concept caught on after the first title, prompting the company to focus on building the brand and expand its licensing program, Activision Publishing Chief Executive Eric Hirshberg said.

"It just starts to take on that body language or footprint of a really meaningful pop-cultural set of characters, the way that Star Wars does or Transformers does," Hirshberg said.

Activision has heavily invested in the Skylanders franchise and marketed products, which are aimed at 5- to 10-year-olds, a demographic dominated by Nintendo Co Ltd.   Continued...

Robert Kotick, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard, Inc., poses for a portrait during the Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 in Los Angeles June 3, 2009. The convention runs June 2-4. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni