Activision Blizzard's (NASDAQ: ATVI ) latest Skylanders title, Trap Team, will soon launch on all the major video-game consoles. That includes next-gen devices like the Xbox One, which weighs in at a hefty eight pounds. But here's the key twist: Trap Team is also coming to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) ultralight, 1-pound iPad Air and a number of other tablets.
The full game experience
We're not talking about a scaled down port of the game, or a special version that has different missions and disappointing graphics. Instead, the Skylanders tablet game will mimic the console experience "pixel for pixel," developer Toys for Bob told IGN. It even comes with a controller and a base that both connect to your tablet via Bluetooth. But it can also be played in touchscreen mode without any hardware accessories. Mobile gamers won't have to wait until months after the console versions come out, either. Trap Team will be available for tablets on Oct. 5, the same day that the title launches on those other gaming devices.
This isn't Activision's first jump into mobile gaming, but it is the biggest. The publisher released its free-to-play digital-card game, Hearthstone, on the iPad back in April. That move already looks like a success, adding millions of players for a title that had attracted 10 million gamers on the PC version. The company plans to release Hearthstone on iPhones along with Android tablets and phones soon. With that mobile momentum behind it, Activision is just taking things a huge step further by releasing a AAA title directly onto tablets.
Sure, Trap Team isn't exactly pushing boundaries in the graphics department. A colorful platformer, it's nothing like the games you imagine when you're thinking next gen, such as Ubisoft's open world Watch Dogs or Activision's Destiny, with its massive multiplayer component.
Still, Skylanders is a powerhouse video game franchise in its own right, having accumulated over $2 billion in toy and game sales since launching in 2011. Activision wouldn't be tinkering with one of its tentpole franchises unless it saw a major opportunity in that direction.
Even though tablet sales have slowed down lately, we can expect the devices to close the gap with consoles and PCs over the next few years, eventually to the point where many more important games head to mobile devices at the same time that they're introduced on traditional gaming hardware. In fact, that gap is already shrinking. As Apple points out with respect to its latest iPad Air model, its A7 processor boasts the capability to "enable detailed graphics and visual effects once possible only on desktop computer and game consoles."
Those capabilities, allowing tablets to compete in the same league with game consoles, is now being put to use by the world's biggest game publisher, with one of its key franchises. That's a big deal. And it likely means that Skylanders: Trap Team won't be the last major game that targets these increasingly powerful gaming devices.
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