When Video Games and Collectible Figurines Collide: Three Suggestions for Toy-Based Video Games
Disney Infinity's Marvel figurines.
Entertainment companies love durable franchises, because durable franchises mean name recognition and name recognition means merchandising opportunities. Two frequent merchandising opportunities for franchises are toys and video games, so it only makes sense that someone would eventually find a way to combine the two into a single package. From what I can tell, Activision accomplished the first major hit in the area of video game and toy collection combos with Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, a game that was the second reboot of the Spyro the Dragon video game series.
Since Skylanders, Disney launched a series of Disney Infinity games, games where players buy collectible toy figurines and discs that represent vehicles and play sets. The figurines and discs plug into the game in a way that allows the game to expand and be modified according to the player's preferences, opening up new characters, abilities, locations and missions. The initial Disney Infinity game involved characters, vehicles and locations from Disney and Pixar movies and TV shows, and the second game in the series will include characters, vehicles and locations from Marvel Comics. Taking a cue from Activision and Disney, Nintendo has been promoting its new line of Amiibo figurines--figurines of characters from popular Nintendo games, such as Super Mario Brothers and Metroid--that can be plugged into a selection of upcoming Nintendo titles for added entertainment value.
I think that combining toys with modular video game platforms is a great idea. From what I've heard from various sources, toy sales for the standard toy demographic (namely, the pre-adolescent crowd) have been flagging while video game sales for the same demographic have been soaring, so it only stands to reason that companies would use one form of merchandise to boost the sales of another. If this kind of toy collecting-based video gaming catches on, then there are three types of characters and franchises I would love to see in their own version of Disney Infinity or Amiibo figurines. Read on ....
1. DC Comics
With an ample supply of characters, vehicles and locations in its inventory, DC Comics needs to have its own toy-based video game series. If DC ever decides to do this, it could appeal to fan nostalgia by basing its character designs on either the Justice League Unlimited animated series (see above) or Kenner's Super Powers action figure line from the '80s (see below).
Godzilla and his universe of kaiju allies and enemies have appeared in both fighting games and collectible figure series, so why not combine the two? Throw in a variety of cities to destroy, locations to explore (such as Monster Island) and non-kaiju enemies to fight, and Toho Studios could have a major video game series on its hands. On the other hand, if this never happens to Godzilla, I could imagine Guillermo del Toro authorizing a toy-based video game series for his Pacific Rim franchise.
3. Super Robots
Putting a selection of super robots into a toy-based video game series isn't an odd idea, since there's something close to it already available: the Super Robot Wars (a.k.a., Super Robot Taisen), a series of tactical role-playing video games that allow players to select super robots from a variety of anime series (e.g., Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Mobile Suit Gundam, Macross, etc.). The first game in this series was released in 1991 for the Nintendo Game Boy and it has released many sequels since then; it even had its own anime and manga tie-in series over the years. With so much material at its disposal, all Super Robot Wars would need is to throw in a line of collectible figurines that can be plugged into a modular video game environment.