Figurine games shoot-out

'Toy-to-life' games add new dimension to gaming and collecting

Each toy from the Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions collections stores its individual progress and skills within its internal storage medium.
Each toy from the Skylanders, Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions collections stores its individual progress and skills within its internal storage medium.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Figurines used to bring characters to life on screen have added value as collectibles

Gaming enthusiast Jarieul Wong loves telling his friends that he spends a mere 70 cents playing his favourite video games every day.

What the 31-year-old publicity manager does not say is that the amount is the average cost of his stash of "toy-to-life" figurines.

Mr Wong started collecting such figurines in 2011, and reckons he has spent close to $1,000 on them.

The toy-to-life video game is a fresh gaming genre. It uses action figures, or figurines, to bring characters to life on screen. If a game character dies during a game, a gamer uses another figurine from his collection to continue playing.

 
 
 

Gamers also buy figurines to access hidden levels in a game, or to enable special abilities. Some buy figurines just to collect them.

These figurines use Near Field Communication technology to interact with the game console via a connected reader, and each toy's progress and skills are recorded within its internal storage medium.

The idea is that gamers will pick up an assortment of figures, on top of buying the game itself.

The first of such games was Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure in 2011. It was followed by Disney Infinity in 2013. Nintendo's Amiibo range was launched last year and Lego joined the fray this year with its Lego Dimensions series.

The Skylanders franchise has raked in more than US$3 billion (S$4.18 billion) in sales for publisher Activision over the last four years, despite the fact that the series is based on characters known to only video game players.

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL GAMES

Most parents complain about the prices of the toys, but they will go ahead and buy these figures for their kids anyway, as they do see the extra value these toys have over the traditional ones.

MR SOON QI SHAN, owner of local game retailer Qisahn

The Disney Infinity franchise uses popular names from its prolific library of characters, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, several Disney princesses, as well as heroes from Marvel Comics and its various movie properties. This year's Version 3.0 introduces characters from Star Wars.

Nintendo's Amiibo series offers figures from iconic video games, including Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikachu, Sonic, Mega Man and Zelda.

The offering from Lego includes several properties from its toy series, such as DC Comics, Ghostbusters, Ninjago, Dr Who and Back To The Future.

A COLLECTOR'S DREAM

According to local game retailer Qisahn, all four toy-to-life games are doing well here.

Owner Soon Qi Shan said: "Most parents complain about the prices of the toys, but they will go ahead and buy these figures for their kids anyway, as they do see the extra value these toys have over the traditional ones."

Lego's entry is the latest boost for this gaming genre. Its games and figurines are not yet available here officially. For now, gamers will have to turn to online retail sites such as Amazon, which is offering free shipping for the US$99.99 Lego Dimensions game once the total order hits US$125, or buy them from parallel importers.

Mr Wong, who has collected six starter packs from Skylanders and Disney Infinity over the years, as well as more than two dozen figurines, was ready to give up on playing the games and simply focus on collecting the figurines - until he heard about the new Lego Dimensions.

As a fan of Lego toys, the idea of having the brick characters interacting within a video game was too enticing a proposition to pass up on.

While Disney Infinity offers dozens of characters, its different properties are kept separate. This means that Han Solo from Star Wars cannot fight alongside Marvel's Captain America in the game's campaign story mode.

With Lego, all the characters in the game can team up, so Batman can battle Saruman (Lord Of The Rings) alongside Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters). Or Superman and Homer (The Simpsons) can take on the Weeping Angels from Dr Who.

"I like the idea of different franchises coming together, and that Gandalf (Lord Of The Rings) can drive the Batmobile," Mr Wong said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline ''Toy-to-life' games add new dimension to gaming and collecting'. Print Edition | Subscribe