Skylanders Imaginators bringing 3D printing to DIY concept

Skylanders Imaginators lets you make your own character, and a newly announced 3D printing option brings the concept full circle.

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Skylanders Imaginators is embracing character creation, but the toys-to-life and back-to-toys again concept was distinctly lacking something when it was introduced in June. Your do-it-yourself characters would be housed in small, non-descript "Creation Crystals," color-coded to their elemental type but otherwise lacking any distinctive qualities. The solution was obvious, and now Activision and developer Finger Food Studios have confirmed it: you'll be able to order a 3D-printed version of your very own Skylander.

Naturally, the whiz-bang feature comes at a price. At $49.99, a 3D printed figure is significantly pricier than a regular Skylander or Creation Crystal. It has the rough surface of many 3D printings, and it comes housed in a clear dome, making it more a collectible than a toy. As the logical conclusion of its central creation concept, though, it makes perfect sense. The sample figurines I saw during a presentation were smaller than the average Skylander, but unmistakably distinct, and they worked within the game just like any other created Skylander. They come in pre-selected poses based on their battle class as well.

At nearly the cost of a game itself, Skylanders diehards may want to wait until they get their created character just right, which could mean making significant progress through a game that doles out custom parts on a regular basis. It also requires a 2-3 week wait, and Activision says quantities will be "limited."

The 3D printed figures were the most impressive part of a presentation that emphasized the various types of custom merch coming to this year's Skylanders game.

Kids who want to wear their creations to school can order a t-shirt with a printing, along with their own pun-tastic names. I was shown a black t-shirt with a Frosty archer, and the name "Snow Bow" in bold letters along the bottom. (They also come in adult sizes, for you big kids.) The shirts will cost $24.99.

Alternatively to the figures, players can order a card that displays a model of their created character. These are surprisingly thick and sturdy, as they should be for an asking price of $14.99 apiece, and they function in the game. I was told that the creation crystal, 3D printed figure, and card are all distinct versions of your character, so if one is downed, another can still be used.

This is all tied together by the free Skylanders Creator app, an on-the-go version of the in-game creation tool. It's all very intuitive and simple to use, but I was most impressed by its transfer functionality. The console game transferred a Skylander to the app using sound cues, with no interference from the sounds of our conversation. That makes it simple to transfer a character in a noisy house with consoles that aren't connected. Or, since it's all based on sound cues, you could record your custom sound and put it online to share the creation with others. It's a neat, kid-smart way of sharing that parents should appreciate.

Skylanders Imaginators may have had a more impressive debut if we'd been shown all these features from the start. With only weeks before release, the timing of these plans must have come down to the wire. With this piece of the puzzle in place, though, the Imaginators concept makes more sense than ever, and I can certainly see a physical Skylander appealing to series superfans.

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