Skylanders BattleCast is a digital card game that will be coming out for iOS, Android, and Amazon devices in 2016. In it you’ll choose Skylanders to battle against friends or opponents online, or in a single-player Adventure Mode.
The idea of Activision making a Skylanders card game for mobile devices is filling a lot of people (mostly parents) with dread, because it could make keeping up with Skylanders even more expensive. Still, the choice to make a card game makes a lot of sense for Activision. You see, the studio Blizzard is part of Activision. And Blizzard makes Hearthstone, which is the biggest money-making digital card game right now. Maybe ever.
I didn’t think that BattleCast looked much like Hearthstone when I first saw it, but once Nicole looked at it she pointed out that it really does have a lot of similarities. The way the cards look is similar, and even the way it plays is pretty similar.
The biggest difference is that instead of a flat battlefield with cards on it, you’re seeing the characters fight in 3D space. My theory for how Skylanders BattleCast will play comes from looking at the cards in the trailer. There appear to be monster cards, which have health in green in the upper right corner and attack power in red in the upper left corner. Like some Hearthstone minions, these cards have effects as well.
There are other cards which appear to be attacks that you can choose. It looks to me like when you’ve summoned a character, they have attacks that you have to spend mana to accomplish.
Here’s the upside of the existence of Skylanders BattleCast. I talked last week about Skylanders scaling up too quickly by having a different gimmick for every game and adding more expensive accessories. A digital card game is something that they can keep iterating on without changing the formula. It’s not going to have that same problem.
However, this still feels very troubling to me because I don’t know what the monetization scheme is. If it’s anything like Hearthstone we’ll be able to play and get digital cards with what we earn in the game. Hearthstone is one of the best free-to-play games out there because it really is free to play, and it feels good to spend money on something that’s not holding a gun to your head asking if you want to keep playing or not.
BattleCast may have to change up that formula because they have physical cards to sell as well. We know from looking at digital versus physical game prices that any time there’s a physical product that needs to be moved off shelves, the digital version tends to stay pricey just to incentivize that. On the other hand, cards are not game boxes.
What I do think is that we might see a fragmentation in future Skylanders games. Skylanders SuperChargers is already too complex for the Wii and Nintendo 3DS. They’re just launching the Racing Mode of the game on those platforms. I think BattleCast is their solution for mobile platforms, and we can expect to see regular updates to this as new Skylanders get announced for the main games.
If they borrow ideas for BattleCast from Hearthstone, I do think this could be a fun game, but I worry about the cost.