Activision has started its fall blitz. Licensed small fries like 007 Legends and Wipeout 3 are getting back up from giants like the appropriately named sequel Skylanders: Giants and the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Even as Activision goes for broke chasing the console gamer dollar, the company continues to expand its meager mobile gaming operations.
The latest mobile gaming effort from Activision is Activate, the company’s new mobile gaming network. Described as a social platform, Activate is Activision’s answer to Apple’s Game Center, Amazon’s GameCircle, GREE’s OpenFeint, DeNA’s Mobage and even Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Users can login to the Activate network using their Facebook ID and password or create a specific account and then look at features common to these types of services. Friends lists, achievements, cloud saves, etc.
Activision hasn’t announced a start date for Activate, but when it is ready for primetime, the company will have a significant weapon for differentiating itself in the mobile market: Skylanders. Billed as the company’s “next billion dollar franchise,” the announcement of Activate came alongside the reveal of two new mobile Skylanders games, Skylanders: Lost Islands and Skylanders: Battlegrounds. The former is a resource management game, not unlike Farmville, while the later is a way to bulk up Skylanders characters and action figures that can be used in the console game as well. Both games will have social features supported by Activate.
Activision will also bring Activate support to older titles like last year’s iOS game Skylanders: Cloud Patrol. The new mode for that game will be a shooting game called Showdown, and if a player beats the score of anyone on their Activate friends list, the earn more in-game currency.
After ignoring the booming mobile market for years, licensing out its properties to other developers, Activision seems to have found the perfect blend of services and properties to become a player in the field. It already invested heavily in opening new mobile studios this year, like the UK-based Blast Furnace, whose Pitfall! reboot came out in August. It also partnered with Flurry in June to promote indie mobile games on iOS devices.
How big is Activision’s potential audience for Activate? It’s sold 30 million Skylanders toys alone in the past year. That’s a whole lot of people already spending on small goods beyond the game, so microtransactions in the games on Activate are a sure thing.