The “toys-to-life” fad has faded (even though Nintendo’s amiibo are still around), so it seems fitting that the video game accessories that kicked it off are now being preserved in a museum.
The Strong museum in Rochester, N.Y., which is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games and the World Video Game Hall of Fame, was recently gifted with a donation of artifacts from Activision that tell the story of the development of Skylanders, the $3 billion franchise that whipped consumers into a frenzy over playing with toy characters that interacted with virtual worlds.
“Skylanders is one of the most significant game franchises of the last decade, and this collection — which includes one-of-a-kind prototypes — shows how the franchise inspired an entirely new genre of play,” said Jeremy Saucier, assistant vice president for interpretation and electronic games, in a news release. “These materials will be used in future exhibits and be immensely valuable to researchers who want to study the genesis of ‘toys-to-life’ gaming.”
Published by Activision in 2011, Skylanders: Spryo’s Adventure stood out in the market for being the first such video game and toy hybrid, allowing players to incorporate their plastic figures in their game world via the Portal of Power. The game quickly became a bestseller, and, (along with its sequels, sold more than 250 million toys. Disney, LEGO, Nintendo and other major entertainment companies quickly entered the space it created.
“We are very proud to have The Strong museum preserve the many stories and artifacts that went into developing Skylanders,” added Paul Yan, chief creative officer at Activision. “This collection exposes Toys for Bob’s unique maker culture and the scrappy inventiveness that went into trail blazing this unconventional marriage of physical toys and video games. Our hope is that making this history publicly available will inspire radical new ways to experience fun and joy.”
The collection holds more than 200 pre-production figures and portals, including hand-sculpted prototypes like the very first working prototype of the Portal of Power; in-house molds and testing tools; nearly 1,000 pages of archival records, including copies of artwork concepts and production schedules; and hundreds of figures in original packaging.
Members of The Strong’s team also conducted video oral history interviews with key staff members, including Toys for Bob founders Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford.