As Activision and Disney have proved with their respective Skylanders and Infinity product lines, the toys-to-life category can be quite lucrative. As a late entrant into the field, Nintendo has also seen some early success with the Amiibo figures that interact with top-selling titles like Super Smash Bros. But can this crowded market really support yet another competitor? As the newest toy maker to take a stab at it, Spin Master sure hopes so.
Spin Master, which has won multiple toy of the year awards (including just recently for its Zoomer Dino robotic dinosaur), is aiming to leverage its toy expertise to muscle in on the space. Sick Bricks, as the name implies, is focused on small brick-shaped characters that sell for just a few dollars each and the characters can then be scanned (they call it an "Optical Beam") into the mobile game, allowing for further customization. Players can mix and match parts between real and virtual Sick Bricks and create new, more powerful combinations.
While Nintendo, Activision and Disney have an edge in the gaming world and a plethora of beloved characters, the lower barrier to entry for Sick Bricks does give Spin Master a leg up. A five-pack can be purchased for $8.99, the mobile game is free-to-play with in-app purchases, and of course there's no need to own a video game console or purchase expensive starter packs.
Launching an original IP in the games business is always a risky endeavor, but Spin Master believes Sick Bricks' mobile-only nature and tie-in with a Cartoon Network series will enable it to carve out a piece of the market for itself.
"Sick Bricks is a passion work and contains many of the themes I've played with over my last 25 years of making games," Tim May, VP of Digital Studios and executive producer on Sick Bricks told GamesIndustry.biz.
"It is a privilege that Spin Master has allowed us to build it... Sick Bricks has been almost two years in the making. It's a huge undertaking since we have the game, the figures and cartoons that will be airing on the Cartoon Network in the U.S. and our own SpindoTV YouTube channel. It's been quite the journey but we're thrilled that consumers will now be able to visit Sick City themselves and enjoy the interactive gameplay that we're all so excited about."
Sick City, as you probably guessed, is the world that Sick Bricks live in. It's being destroyed by the evil Overlord Omega and his goons, and so you join forces with Jack Justice and the Sick Bricks to stop the carnage. Yes, it sounds utterly ridiculous, but so do a lot of toys and it's unlikely that a 10-year-old will care. What kids will care about is if it's any fun, but can a toy company make a good digital game? May scoffed at the idea that Spin Master is somehow at a disadvantage to the likes of Activision and Disney.
"We work with the same world class development studios that console publishers use and we hold our games to the same high standards. Our approach is a bit different since we look for tactile engagement with the toys themselves as well as portability, affordability and humor. These are all key factors in this space. Spin Master may be new to digital games as a company but we do have a team with widespread industry experience in delivering world class console and handheld titles to draw upon. Add to that our best in class understanding of toys plus deep expertise in children's entertainment overall. In short, we are very confident in our abilities to offer top-notch gameplay to today's consumers," he stressed.
Sick Bricks will feature "pirates, ninjas, zombies, robots and the odd monkey-all the things kids love," May said, adding that Spin Master intends to support the product with campaigns across television, social media and retail (in addition to the aforementioned Cartoon Network show).
The company has already completed 40 cartoon episodes for Sick Bricks, and the full toy line is about to hit retail, launching on March 12 in the U.S.
The Sick Bricks characters do bear some resemblance to Legos, but May assured us that Spin Master has done its due diligence on the legal side. "It's something we're obviously mindful of and we have ensured that there aren't any concerns in terms of patents. Brick-based construction has been around for a long time as a genre and we're excited to be combining bricks with gameplay. We're proud of the differences that Sick Bricks offers and frankly, it's far weirder than anything else out there," he said.