Toys-To-Life Games Are More Than Just a Trend

By | 10 months ago 

After two years of shaking my head at the toys-to-life genre and calling it a fad, Disney Infinity 3.0 and Lego Dimensions have finally converted me to the dark side.

From the 1989’s Nintendo Power Glove up through the voice commands of current generation consoles, the video game industry has always been full of fads and trends. Some features and hardware catch on and win gamers over, while others fall to the wayside after getting panned by early adopters. Despite my usual cynicism for fads in this industry, I’m ready to admit I was dead wrong on the toys-to-life trend.

If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be hunting down Star Wars Disney Infinity toys during my time off or pining over my friend’s amiibo collection, I’d tell you to recheck your crystal ball. From the first time I sat down with a Skylanders playset I’ve been laughing off the toys-to-life genre as nothing more than a way to drain kids of their (sometimes) hard-earned allowances. That said, after the latest wave of software updates and new games, it’s time to admit these games are onto something.

In my defense, the first few waves of these games were definitely missing that something special. Skylanders, Disney Infinity 1.0, and even the first year of amiibo all offered pretty lackluster gaming experiences. Infinity and Skylanders had some cool ideas, but were poorly executed and the amiibo lacked the in-game support and incentive to make them anything cooler than eye candy. Infinity took a step in the right direction with 2.0’s focus on Marvel, but even that awesome cast of characters wasn’t enough to make up for the game’s lackluster campaign experience.

Lego Dimensions Xbox One

The end of 2015 ushered in a new era of toys-to-life games with Lego Dimensions and Disney Infinity 3.0 spearheading the movement. Both games have the perfect match of exciting cool toys (featuring plenty of iconic characters and items) and, most importantly, fun and engaging gameplay. It took months of recommendations for me to finally cave in and try these games, but I’m never looking back at this point.

Infinity 3.0 still has the robust toy box where players can create unique worlds and dive into challenges built by other players, but it also offers a fun and engaging series of story modes that incentivize players to purchase more toys, power discs, and play sets. I won’t argue that these games aren’t a money pit, but at least now I think there is a significant amount of entertainment value that comes along with each purchase. The increase is quality to the single player (and co-op) campaigns has made all the difference for these games. The increase in quality has been noted by consumers and Infinity recently became the best-selling toys-to-life product.

The toys-to-life games certainly aren’t perfect and the prices seem a little high for add-on content, but it’s time to admit this movement is more than just a trend. I think that Nintendo’s amiibo still have a lot of work to do to prove themselves, but hopefully the figures play into whatever the company has planned for the NX. It’s hard to make the figures an exciting, integral part of the gaming experience when they are optional side products, but hopefully a future release will give Wii U and 3DS owners something more substantial to do with their collections.

Have you started collecting any toys-to-life games and figures? Do you think I’m crazy and that it’s just another terrible fad? Let us know in the comments.