a recent article on Yahoo! and CNBC, the author refers to the game Skylanders as a surprise hit. Not only do I think that is wrong, the fact that the company was surprised only reveals how shockingly out of touch they are.
Skylanders was a guaranteed hit. It is precisely where games need to be going. Games are worthless. Once data is created, it can be copied ad infinitum. To be of value, the game needs to be tied to something necessary for its operation. This can be special controllers, special displays, systems, cards, services like Warcraft: truly, anything that is finite.
Skylanders should have been created years ago, because this wasn't a huge, innovative leap. It is something that anyone in the industry, after spending more than ten minutes thinking "hmmm, how can we be innovative," would have created.
There was precedent. Tons of precedent. The RPG world has shown how to attach value to physical things for years. Magic The Gathering cards sell for obscene amounts of money. Warhammer figures dot the desks of gamers across the country. And if you think there were no examples of a physical/digital crossover, one of the first demos of Microsoft's Surface table was a combination of data and products in Dungeons & Dragons...
And long before that, the Clix system combined intellectual property, a game, and required hardware into figures that were, for all intents and purposes, identical to Skylanders save for the electronic part. Skylanders IS Clix.
Skylanders was no surprise at all. Neither was World of Warcraft. The next game to tie together services or products with software in an entertaining package will also be a monster hit, and that won't be a surprise either. This is where not just games, but all software must inevitably go.