Instead of releasing large groups of Skylanders figures in waves like the company has done for past releases, Activision has already planned a staggered release schedule for figures slated to launch this year, Activision's Glenn Oliver told Polygon.
Oliver said at least 20 percent of the Skylanders planned to release with Swap Force have yet to be released. Activision will sprinkle its freshly-minted and coveted little critters throughout 2014, releasing them to the public in small groups every few months or so. The current group contains five figures — including new Swap Force characters Fryno and Punk Shock with five more slated to hit "later this spring," according to Oliver.
Among these spring releases is at least one special seasonal Skylander, a new version of Trigger Happy, a character introduced in the first Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Springtime Trigger Happy, along with at least two more spring-slated Skyanders, will launch in rounded egg-shaped packaging rather than the traditional boxy fare. The Springtime Trigger Happy figurine has been re-posed from the original and includes new powers and a new color scheme, gold weapons and a bunny ears hat.
Oliver explained that this new version of Trigger Happy is something Activision has and will continue to do for the Skylanders series: re-release existing characters in new poses with new in-game perks. This new version of Trigger Happy will also lead the spring launch lineup, which includes the "stealth librarian" Trap Shadow and icy fighter Freeze Blade. Moving forward, the toys will be produced in different quantities and will launch at different times throughout the year on a not-as-rigid schedule.
"This year we've expanded to a year-round franchise, meaning we've reserved more characters for 2014 than we normally would," Oliver said. "There are a good 20 percent of them that haven't come out yet [for Swap Force]. We wanted to take advantage of the fact that we know there are still a lot of opportunities, like birthdays and Easter, for gift-giving, and we want you to be able to go a store and buy new Skylanders."
Activision also announced new licensing partnerships with General Mills and Crayola last week, bringing new Skylanders-themed coloring activities and products as well as Skylanders fruit snacks to the market this year. These are just two notches in Activision's Skylanders licensing belt, with more than 175 companies currently licensed to use the brand.
According to Oliver, licensors identify what characters they think will be popular and then use them on their products. One example of this is Freeze Blade; the character's figurine has yet to be released, but he is already a popular staple on t-shirts, lunch boxes and so on.
Activision also recently announced that another of its popular franchises, Call of Duty, would move to a three-year development cycle, with the series rotating production between three studios. Skylanders games are also stewarded by multiple companies: Toys for Bob and Vicarious Visions have been on the team since Spyro's Adventure, with Frima Studios making the web-based Skylanders Universe and n-Space and Beenox working on 3DS and Wii ports.
Swap Force was headed by Vicarious Visions, while this year's unnamed title is being developed by Toys for Bob. When asked if Activision is applying the Call of Duty cycle to Skylanders, Oliver said not quite; but the team wants all developers involved in the franchise their chance to shine.
"All these companies have been there since the beginning," he said. "We wanted to give each of these studios enough time to really work on their game and on what our core essentials are. We're always challenging ourselves to make sure that next game has innovation and great gameplay and ways to surprise you."