Erik Kain at Forbes posted an interview with Ray West, Senior Game Designer at Toys for Bob. In the article, Disney Infinity is briefly mentioned along with a statement by John Coyne, VP of Consumer Marketing at Activision regarding this new competitor:
“We are thrilled by the incredible success that the Skylanders franchise has had in such a short period of time. We are also flattered that one of the leading family entertainment companies is joining our toys to life category. We continue to focus on delivering innovative and immersive entertainment experiences to kids around the world and are pouring more creativity into our games. As a result we are well positioned to continue leading the category.”
– John Coyne, VP of Consumer Marketing, Activision
The article mentions several things such as their prototyping process, quality control for the toys and how they split into smaller groups and encouraged to “think big” with regards to Skylanders in order to create something new and unique. One thing in particular that caught my interest is their “Game James”, which is not related to Skylanders:
“…we can prototype anything in virtually no time at all. We have Game Jams where teams of people whip up demos and can show them off to the entire studio. Many of these ideas aren’t even remotely Skylanders-related; we’re just doing it because we have a cool idea and we want to see how far we can take it. It’s an incredibly creative atmosphere at Toys For Bob, and it really helps to keep us fresh and motivated to have fun doing our jobs.”
– Ray West
I think this is awesome because it shows that 100% of their time is not dedicated to the Skylanders franchise. They could be working on anything. With the TFB team growing over time, these game jams must be very engaging to witness and to be a part of. While it may be possible that some of these ideas may share a connection with Star Control, these could also be ideas that could someday turn into a unique game idea with the TFB-magic we all know and love. This also reminds of of the “20% time (Innovation Time Off)” concept that Google uses to encourage employees to come up with new ideas and products such as GMail and Google News.
With the recent financial difficulties of Atari and the announced closure of THQ, it’s great to see that TFB is thriving and surviving through these hard times and receiving critical acclaim with the Skylanders franchise. With regards to Disney Infinity, I don’t think I’ve seen a single article about that game where Skylanders isn’t mentioned.
Back in 2003, Disney gave various licenses to Activision (e.g. Toy Story, Tarzan, Lion King), who gave it to Toys for Bob to create Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure. It used the same Neversoft engine in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. With regards to licenses, Disney owns Star Wars and Marvel. This will indeed create an interesting competitor to Skylanders. I want to compare this to the “Modern Warfare 3 vs. Battlefield 3″ debate, because both products are backed by big publishers and both contain recognizable characters that have generated significant profits for both companies.
What do you think about TFB’s game jams and Disney Infinity?