In many households, video games have become the natural successors to traditional toys. With gaming hardware becoming ever more advanced, the corners of our childhood imaginations that previously could not be matched by a videogame can now be brought fully to life on consoles.
Though the two areas have sat in uneasy competition when it comes to being the most-wanted kids gift come the Christmas rush, this year will see the worlds of gaming and toys combine.
Activision are re-launching their popular Spyro the Dragon series with a bold new title called Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure.
Catching clips of the game makes it looks like a fun, if generic platformer, with the dragon and his pals on a quest to save their world from Kaos, an evil Portal Master.
However, this PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii title differs greatly from what's on the shelves right now as it ships with toys that are used to play through and unlock new areas of the game. Shipping with three action figures and the game software itself, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure also comes with a peripheral called the "Portal of Power". Gamers place one of the many collectible toys compatible with the game on the "Portal" stand, which sees their toy come to life as an in-game, playable character. Any progression a player makes is then stored with the toy, which can be brought to pals' houses and played with on their Spyro games too.
Likewise, Carte Blanche Greetings are expanding their Tatty Teddy range to include an online, free-to-play game called Me To You My Place. They're launching a new Tatty Puppy soft toy in stores that comes with a code to unlock the mischievous mutt as a character in the game.
"With the launch of metoyoumyplace.com Carte Blanche Greetings has successfully taken a 15 year old physical presence and made it even more digitally relevant, truly giving its dedicated following a space to claim for themselves and continue to enjoy the brand both offline and online," says Jocasta Kelsey, Head of Marketing at Carte Blanche Greetings.
"This is a fantastic new adventure for both the brands and its community as Carte Blanche Greetings keeps on breaking new ground."
So is this growing trend a good thing for kids?
I'd say so. Videogames are unavoidably attractive to kids with their bright visuals and cutesy characters, but spending too much time in virtual worlds, especially if playing alone, can be stunting and at times isolating. Skylanders actively encourages groups of kids to get together with their toys as well as their games controllers, creating their own real-world adventures to go alongside the virtual ones, and that can only be a good thing. You can argue that blurring the lines between the virtual and real-worlds can be damaging and confusing for youngsters, but with children increasingly exploring online and communicating through games communities such as Xbox Live and Facebook, these safe, kid-friendly zones may be the perfect introduction to inevitable online exposure.
Is it a good thing for parents though?
In terms of your wallets, perhaps not, at least where Skylanders is concerned. Where once a videogame was a one-off purchase, the introduction of collectible toys that unlock new areas of a game mean that for your children to get the full package, you're going to have to go beyond the "Starter Pack" that ships with the game and pick up a handful more toys to flesh out the experience. Though no pricing has been announced yet, you can hazard a guess at around £5-£10 a toy and £50+ for the game and toy-link portal. When you consider that there are in all 32 characters to own, that could get very pricey indeed.
Likewise, if the formula perfected by other online web-based titles like Farmville is followed by Carte Blanche Greetings, you can eventually expect plenty of Tatty Puppy virtual gifts to have to consider too.