The newest trick for Activision's Skylanders: Planes, boats and cars

The newest installment of the popular video game franchise that mixes real-world toys with a video game will include a new vehicle lineup when it releases this fall.

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Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
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Activision's newest Skylanders installment, SuperChargers, adds vehicles into the mix. Activision

Activision Blizzard has a new plan to kick its Skylanders games into the next gear.

The company, which has sold more than $2 billion plastic toy figurines and software as part of its Skylanders franchise, is hoping to rev up demand by introducing vehicles into the mix.

The games and their associated action figures have become the talk of the video game and toy worlds since their debut in 2011. The games were initially sold as games that let players use toys imbued with sensors that let them communicate with the world displayed on the TV. Activision has expanded its offering each year with features like swappable body parts, allowing players to mix the capabilities of the game's heroes by physically switching their body parts.

Now, with more than 300 toy characters in its lineup, Activision is expanding its ambitions with cars, boats and planes in a new title due out September 20 called Skylanders SuperChargers.

"To date, we've only brought one type of toy to life, and that's characters," said Chris Wilson, a senior producer at Activision. The company will sell submarines, dragsters, helicopters, jets and more. "We want to take kids on a fun adventure."

Developed by Activision's longtime subsidiary, New York-based studio Vicarious Visions, SuperChargers is the eighth installment in the Skylanders franchise and the first to introduce vehicles into the toy lineup. Players will now be able to place up to two characters and a vehicle into the game at once. They do this by putting these toys on a platform, which then communicates with a video game console and displays their likeness on screen as part of the game.

These technological toys are part of a growing trend in the games industry known as toys-to-life. The simple idea, which piggybacks on the proliferation of sensors throughout the tech industry, has become one of the most popular aspects of the video game industry, commanding $4 billion in sales over the past four years, 75 percent of which has been racked up by Skylanders, Activision said.

More companies have begun chasing Activision's success. Walt Disney launched its line of toys and games called Infinity in 2013 and has said it's pleased with results. It's planning a Star Wars-themed set of toys for this year. Nintendo is another competitor, which launched its line of Amiibo toys last year. Lego has also said it plans to enter the mix, launching its Dimensions toys this year too.

Activision said it plans to release SuperChargers for all major video game consoles, including Nintendo's 3DS handheld and the original Wii, first released in 2006. As was the case with last year's Skylanders: Trap Team, SuperChargers will see simultaneous release of the full game on Apple's iPad, which uses a specially designed controller to work with the game. The title will add 20 new characters and 20 vehicles to the Skylanders lineup.

Not all aspects of the game, however, will be accessible without the right set of toys. The title's console starter pack, which will retail for $74.99, comes with one car and two new characters, which Activision says players can use to complete the game's main story mode. To access additional in-game play, you'll have to purchase one of the vehicle-themed toys for $14.99 apiece. Character toys will sell for $12.99 apiece.

There's one more thing Activision added to SuperChargers toys: moveable parts. Cars will have wheels that let them slide along the ground, while boats and planes will feature spinning propellers and rotors. Effectively, this means kids can now use the toys when not playing the video game much in the same way generations past may have raced Hot Wheels cars on the living room floor.

"For all of us, when we were kids, you played with your toy vehicles, there was that moment when you were rolling your car on the carpet or zooming your plane in the air," Wilson said. "We want to make sure kids have that moment with these vehicles, and let them play not only in the game, but outside of it as well."