A new wave of collectibles is on the way to help bolster the “toys to life” video games market, a once red-hot niche of gaming that’s hit some speed bumps in the past year.
The video game Lego Dimensions will roll out a fresh set of characters starting September 27, including The new Ghostbusters, Harry Potter and The A-Team, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) said Thursday.
The new characters — joining the current roster which includes Batman and Scooby-Doo — will hit stores as separate game packs () tied to the main Dimensions game available since last September for PlayStation, Xbox and other platforms.
The series of games aimed at kids combine physical figurines players can purchase and transport into the game by placing them on a special portal connected to their home console.
Debuting in 2011 with the launch of Activision franchise Skylanders, multiple competitors have surfaced in the five years since, including Dimensions, Disney Infinity and Nintendo’s amiibo. According to NPD Group, overall U.S. sales in the interactive gaming toys sector in 2015 reached $720.5 million, up 7% from the previous year.
Concerns over the market’s viability have started to surface. In a surprise move last month, Disney revealed it was shutting down its “toys-to-life” brand Disney Infinity, featuring characters from Disney, Marvel and Star Wars.
During Disney’s second quarter earnings call last month, CEO Bob Iger cited the long-term prospects of the toys-to-life business for the company’s decision. “We did not have enough confidence in the business in terms of it being stable enough to stay in it from a self-publishing perspective,” he said.
Between Infinity’s departure and lower sales for Skylanders over the last two years,Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olsen foresees a slowdown in the market. “It may have hit its peak.”
To date, Warner Bros. has sold more than 165 million Lego games, betweenDimensions and a series of standalone titles featuring franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Although the company did not disclose sales figures specifically for Dimensions, WBIE says it remains a big part of their business.
“We continue to view it as a very important and sizable market and one that we and our partner Lego should be participating in,” says WBIE President David Haddad during an interview with USA TODAY.
Other franchises featured in the upcoming expansion include Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Adventure Time, Goonies and Gremlins. Each franchise will launch as its own separate expansion pack.
The expansion also introduces Battle Arenas, a competitive game mode, where up to four players brawl in a series of matches like Capture The Flag.
“We want more people to be able to play together,” says Jonathan Smith, head of production at Dimensions developer TT Games. “When you get toys together, we keep thinking of more fun ways to (play) with them the way you would in your bedroom.”
NPD analyst Liam Callahan says while “there’s health in the market,” the lack of a new Disney Infinity experience this holiday will drive toys-to-life sales down this year. “It’s a big hole to fill.”
Expect games like Skylanders and Dimensions to pick up some of that share, saysWedbush analyst Michael Pachter. “Those two benefit more this holiday than the first 10 months of the year,” he says, noting the last release of Infinity toys arrives this month.
Earlier this month, Activision unveiled Skylanders Imaginators, a new version of the game where players can create their own Skylander characters.
Instead of launching a new game every year, Dimensions will supplement 2015’s game with a host of brand expansions. The game will boast 30 entertainment properties once this expansion rolls out, and Smith says the studio is exploring plans for future releases. “We’re incredibly lucky because Lego can be anything and anything can be Lego.”