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Activision went to Nintendo first with Skylanders

Skylanders Giants_X360_Bouncer in Cutthroat Carnival

The Skylanders series has gained massive popularity since it debuted in 2011, netting Activision gobs of cash with each new release. In a new feature on Polygon discussing how the series got its start, Toys for Bob founders Fred Ford and Robert Reiche discuss how the series got started, what they envision for the future, as well as some of the directions they could have gone in the past. One of the things discussed is that Nintendo was approached with the offer to be a partner in the Skylanders distribution, but Nintendo decided not to jump on the opportunity. Considering Activision has made $2 billion in lifetime sales from the series, that’s a costly mistake.

They spent a long time looking and looking,” says Reiche. “They were just like ‘we have never seen anything like this before.’ I’ve always wondered about the full meaning of that comment [laughs].”

According to Reiche, he’s not sure why Nintendo never capitalized on the deal. He wonders if it’s a deal that will “haunt them for the rest of their days,” and says with the success of Disney Infinity, Nintendo must see the value in having games with toys that can be incorporated. That’s likely, considering the Wii U hosts an NFC chip that can be used with Pokemon Rumble, which saw a limited run of toys produced for use in the game.

Now, Reiche says the fact that Nintendo didn’t capitalize on the chance at an exclusive title was fortunate, since the Wii U isn’t doing as well as Nintendo hoped.

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  • Jack5221

    Even if it were exclusive to the Wii U. Fans would whine and cry for it to go multi-platform and Activision would have eventually gave in. At least they’ve brought it to the Wii U.

    • https://www.facebook.com/BlueLightningTechnicalServices Bob Wilkerson

      They never do that.. I mean just look at Bayonetta 2.. 3rd party company developing the game and exclusive to Wii U and no one is bitching…

      Oh wait… Never mind

      • http://Thissitethesitethatexiststhisisarealsitedontclickthis.com Shane Michaels

        I don’t know. I’ve heard some complaints. Nothing too bad…
        Oh, here’s a good one, someone just said, “I hope Nintendo headquarters burns down and all of the staff die horrendiously, screw Bayonetta 2 and screw Wii U”

        Like you said, no complaints from anyone!

    • That guy who hates Spike

      Fans of Spyro? They were pissed off that they shoehorned him into the game.
      Fans of Skylanders? They’re mostly children. They don’t usually go on Youtube to speak their thoughts.

  • Commander Raichu

    well thats a missed opportunity i mean if they had the skylanders as exclusive third party ips had one for 2013 christmas
    families would go nuts

  • SmashFinale

    Honestly, the internet would try even HARDER to destroy Nintendo if they made exclusivity with a Spyro game. Let alone a Skylanders Spyro game.

  • https://twitter.com/Zorpix_Fang Zorpix

    ugh… Nintendo being my favorite company and Skylanders being one of my favorite games… this would’ve been amazing for me…

  • jjbredesen

    Why would Nintendo let this one pass…. They could have made so much money, but then again Activison would screw them over and make it multiplatform…shame, Nintendo could make the franchise really good, it aldready is, but Nintendo could make it better.

  • MichelChartrand

    Considering it was 2011 and the Wii U wasn’t yet released, the presentation put forward to Nintendo may have just gone bad. These guys pitched a game to Nintendo at the end of the Wii’s reign looking for partnership on a game that requires purchasing plastic toys and some sort of base NFC thing, it’s possible their sales pitch to Nintendo execs didn’t go that great.

    I wouldn’t hold it against Nintendo, not every idea pitched to them is a winner, sometimes they have to say no.

    • jrob23

      no. The Wii was in so many households and was the cheapest console of the three you could buy. Families with kids already owned the console. Having this in a bundle as an exclusive would have moved even more. There is no excusing this slight. Nintendo is geared towards kids and a unique product came along that was a home run. Just because it wasn’t their idea doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize on it. Honestly, this, and not getting Minecraft,make them look incompetent.

      • MichelChartrand

        Like I said, some of it could have been presentation. It’s also risk management. I mean, who’s Toys for Bob after all? Reading over the articles about this, it does appear Nintendo had a limited partnership they just didn’t take the plunge. Hindsight is 20/20, but going back in time I can imagine what they felt looking at this toy from this company, using an old IP that hasn’t been used in a while(Spyro?), and deciding if they want to invest in millions of toys being manufactured and whether this could be a hit, or if they’ll be stuck with millions of unsold toys.
        I wasn’t there and can’t really speak too much for them, and don’t want to seem like a Nintendo apologist, I just picture this as being like many of the other deals and such that get pitched all the time to these companies. I can just imagine all the other ideas they’ve said no to that really were misses.

        • Stephen Dorn

          I think that nintendo’s just apprehensive about going into the “it’s already on the disk but you have to buy it to use it” side of gaming. I mean, they’ve done it in small amounts here and there, a huge dlc that makes the game seem like a whole new one here, Pokemon rumble there, but I think they’re just, of the three major gaming companies, the one that cares the most about they’re customers getting their money’s worth.

  • DragonSilths

    Nintendo wants Destiny from Activision not Skylanders crap.

    • Jessey

      Crap?

      • DragonSilths

        To me its crap. I am aware it is a well loved game by kids but I personally think its crap.

        • sd

          Yes but the point is that games like this don’t need to appeal to you or me. They simply need to appeal to a large group of people to help the console sell. If this happened then every Wii U owner would benefit. At the moment this isn’t happening.

          • DragonSilths

            Its already a Multiplat and on Wii U so this changes nothing. It being exclusive or multiplat has no effect.

          • sd

            If it were exclusive it would have helped to ship more Wii U units. All those kids wanting to play skylanders would be begging their parents for the console. Exclusivity sells consoles.

            But yes being multi-platform does little to boost sales without exclusivity.

          • DragonSilths

            Overall sales of the game would have been cut down if it was Nintendo exclusive. It became a $2 billion game, if it was Nintendo only it would have maybe been 1/3 of that.

  • WiiUPS4

    Who cares

  • ETeach

    “Now, Reiche says the fact that Nintendo didn’t capitalize on the chance
    at an exclusive title was fortunate, since the Wii U isn’t doing as well
    as Nintendo hoped.”

    Ouch. Still, this isn’t exactly new, to Nintendo or anyone else in the entertainment industry. Microsoft buying Rare, Nintendo passing up Disc-based games for the N64, Sean Connery turning down playing Gandolf. It happens.

    • Blue Hernandez

      Billy Crystal said no to Toy Story.

      • That guy who hates Spike

        I think Billy Chrystal was too busy more than anything else at the time.

        • Blue Hernandez

          He said in an interview that it was the only thing he truly regreted, career wise.

          • koopapoopas

            At least he was Calcifer – and in Monsters Inc.

          • Blue Hernandez

            Yeah I doubt he’ll say no to Pixar again haha.

  • Rygar

    “He wonders if it’s a deal that will “haunt them for the rest of their days,”

    Uh..yeah no. I mean Skylanders made a bunch of money for now, but I don’t think the house of the most iconic video game charcters will be hurting in the long run because they passed on this.

    • jrob23

      not the point. It was a massive lost opportunity. Don’t be a blind fanboy apologist

      • Rygar

        TBH I never played Skylanders so I know nothing about it. I’m pretty apathetic towards to the game so unless I own stock in Nintendo, I have no reason to care.

        • jrob23

          well maybe I am a little touchy as I do own stock in NTDOY. I am trying to separate my own personal views (I too don’t know the game except that kids fricken love it) and my views as an investor.

  • Gabe Hoffman

    Why would they? Fans would just bitch and moan about it being Wii U exclusive anyway and Activision would cave and make it multiplat. Remember how Nintendo said they are looking into games that will use the NFC function more. That may have been part of it

  • jrob23

    I read things like this and I see that Nintendo still doesn’t have a Pokémon counterpart to Skylanders and Disney Infinity and it’s just blatantly obvious Iwata needs to go.

    • That guy who hates Spike

      But we do know Nintendo has a product like this in the works, and will be revealed sometime before, or at E3. Let’s not have Iwata walk the plank just yet.

  • HydePark1980

    Once again I gotta say gamers of this generation are so full of shit. Gamers scream for Nintendo to embrace more mature content in their games but then scream bloody murder when they turn down a franchise aimed towards younger gamers……WTF!!

    • Petri

      It is impossible to please everyone, but it is easy to piss everyone off.

  • Usaamah

    This would have boosted their appeal with kids and families, which would have lead to more purchases, and thus more favourable conditions for all of us (higher consumer adoption rates lead to more third party support, which would have led to a better perception of the console, even though it is the exact same thing). Would have been interesting. Nintendo needs to start betting slightly more aggressively on new opportunities/ideas.

  • sd

    I think its just another example of Nintendo having lost touch with its consumers.

    • Petri

      So they do not go after mature audience, they’ve lost touch?
      They do not invest in a game that is clearly for younger audience, they’ve lost touch?
      Well, it is impossible to please everyone, but it is easy to piss everyone off.

      Though I agree, this kind of game could have fitted well with Nintendo.
      But anyways, this kind of news are more than common no matter what industry.

      • sd

        I have had a Wii U since day 1. Poor advertising, Failed to explain what the Wii U is to the masses, broken promises, failed to add the advertised day 1 features outside of the US and Japan, minimal 1st party game releases. Just a few examples of how they have lost touch recently. Anyway that was I made that comment.

        I still have my Wii U, but anyone who has owned one from the beginning knows Nintendo have lost touch over the last 2 years.

        • Petri

          Well, yeah, Nintendo hasn’t really done anything for me since NES.
          I had Gamecube, and it was great, but only first party game I had, was Eternal Darkness.
          I bought Wii U on launch, because Nintendo funded Bayonetta 2.

          • sd

            Bayonetta 2 will be a great game, its unfortunate it will be released a year + later than originally planned though.

  • Squid

    Well it’s a must to bring this game to Wii, it’s not like the main audience was adults. Obviously Nintendo products should be the ones to have games for kids. Because Nintendo gets more variety on games for everyone rather than mostly T and Mature games.

  • Dáibhí wotshissurname

    For the last part, maybe Skylanders could have changed that around. But to me, I think that a small part of Skylanders’s success was owed to jumping on the Spyro bandwagon.