Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) is going back to the well and aiming to reenergize some of its classic properties. The next big project in this initiative is a remake of the first three games in the Spyro the Dragon series -- a franchise that made its debut on Sony's PlayStation console back in 1998.
The recent announcement of the Spyro Reignited Trilogy is significant because Activision's collection of Crash Bandicoot remakes proved to be a big sales hit, the company could use more family-friendly properties, and there is an animated show on Netflix that ties into the franchise. As Activision looks to increases the presence of its characters in film and television, bringing Spyro back to center stage in gaming is a move that makes a lot of sense.
What's old is new again
Across the entertainment space, there's demand for content that tickles nostalgia nerves. Last year, Activision released an updated version of its 2007 release Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as well as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which was a remake of the first three games in that classic series. Resurrecting established franchises and releasing updated versions of previous hits comes with the promise of a built-in audience, creating big sales potential and limiting risk, as illustrated by the recent success of the Crash Bandicoot reboot.
The Crash trilogy managed to sell 2.5 million copies just a few months after its June release despite only being available on the PlayStation 4 platform. Activision later announced that the game had become the best-selling remake collection ever released on that console, and added that the Crash trilogy will make its way to the Microsoft Xbox One and Nintendo Switch platforms.
Here's CEO Bobby Kotick discussing Crash Bandicoot's successful return in the company's most recent earnings call:
Crash Bandicoot continued to have strong sales in Q4 after a successful summer launch. Crash's performance shows how valuable our library of IP can be, and brought back players in a compelling new way. We look forward to growing other beloved IP in future offerings as well.
The Crash trilogy actually outsold Activision's own Destiny 2 in the U.K. retail market last year -- a surprising development in the context of respective expectations for those two titles. The Spyro remakes were probably in development prior to Crash's release, but its performance gives the company a clear go-ahead to explore older franchises.
The details on Reignited Trilogy
Spyro Reignited Trilogy is set to launch on Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One platforms on Sept. 26, and then on Nintendo's Switch console roughly a month later. The title will debut at a $40 price point. That's $20 cheaper than a standard console release, but also $10 more expensive than Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy at launch -- an indication that Activision is seeing increased pricing power on the heels of that highly successful remake collection.
Giving Spyro more spotlight is a smart move
The early entries in the Spyro series were something special when they were released on the original PlayStation back in the late 1990s, and there's still fondness for the franchise even though it hasn't seen a major console release in more than 15 years. Activision acquired the property when the company separated from Vivendi in 2008 and actually used it to bolster its Skylanders series, which went on to be a big hit. So, Spyro hasn't been completely out of the picture, even if he was relegated to playing a supporting role.
Back in 2010, attaching the purple dragon to help launch Skylanders gave the new game some familiar grounding. The popularity of Skylanders quickly eclipsed the Spyro brand, but as the Skylanders franchise has lost sales momentum, Activision is counting on the 20-year-old character to carry more weight.
The company opted to make Spyro the main character in its Skylanders Academy series on Netflix, which aired for two seasons with a third set to debut sometime this fall. That release date should tie in nicely with the release of Reignited Trilogy and demonstrates the types of cross-promotion opportunities the company could take advantage of as it continues to expand beyond the gaming space.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy should also add some needed variety to the publisher's software lineup. Now that the Skylanders game franchise has lost selling power, Activision is in need of other family-friendly properties. Spyro looks like a promising candidate. If Reignited Trilogy goes on to be a sales success, and there's a good chance it will, the company will almost certainly move to deliver follow-up releases and explore other opportunities with the property.
As Activision Blizzard moves to create a Disney-style multimedia empire, complete with sizable film and merchandising segments, building up characters that might have the potential to play a Mickey Mouse-type role is a smart move that could pay off on multiple fronts. And it's an initiative that shareholders have good reason to be fired up about.