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Plugged In

Skylanders claims a trio of sales records

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(Credit: Activision)

The Skylanders are quickly becoming one of Activision's most valuable franchises.

As part of its earnings call yesterday, Activision noted that the franchise has crossed $2 billion in worldwide sales - a mark no series put out by an independent publisher has ever hit that quickly. But that was just the first of the records.

Eric Hirshberg, president and chief executive officer of Activision Publishing, says further checking by the company shows that only one title, in fact, has ever hit the $2 billion mark quicker: Nintendo's Wii Fit.

And, as if that weren't enough, he adds, if you took the video game out of the equation and looked solely at the sales of Skylander's toys in the action figure category, it would be not only the biggest in the world - but its sales would eclipse the current number one and three action lines combined.

So, with a feat like that (not to mention massive internal competition for consumers' attention this year), how does the company top itself in 2014?

"The biggest competition for Skylanders is Skylanders," Hirschberg tells Plugged In. "I know that sounds like a boxed answer, but we have got to continue to make people's eyes pop our of their heads."

Historically, we wouldn't have to wait long to hear how Activision plans to do that. Toy Fair has generally been the time Activision begins to crank up its Skylanders marketing machine. This year, though, it has decided to hold its cards close to its vest a bit longer.

Developer Toys For Bob, which created the series, is overseeing the latest installment. And while he's not giving details, Hirschberg says fans can expect more than an incremental change this year.

"We want to reinvigorate the franchise each and every time," he says. "To me, that is how you continue to build success. Our strategy is pretty simple. We feel like we've gotten to this level of success by delivering breakthrough innovation that's captivating to our young fans. ...And I can assure what you're going to see is going to be another leap forward."

Skylanders faced its first real competition in 2013 with Disney Infinity, which has sold 3 million starter packs since its release. And while Hirschberg won't address the game directly, he points again to the numbers to indicate the impact on Skylanders was minimal.

"Competition is nothing new for us," he says. "The anomaly was we didn't have it briefly with Skylanders because we invented the category. What I would say in terms of impact for us is we grew our business in 2013 despite the fact that there was a console transition and competition this time. ... So that makes me bullish."

If yesterday's earnings call showed anything, it's Activision's suffering from an embarrassment of riches these days.

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