When it comes to Skylanders variants, there are two major points that everyone wants to know:
1) Does it look different in the game?
2) Where can you get it?
For further details about individual variants, be sure to check out the How Rare is My Variant sections.
To address the first point, I have already written an article about determining how a figure will appear in-game. However, this information will now be available on each individual character page as well.
Each character will be listed as either In-Game or Chase. The definitions of each term can be found below:
In-game variants, as you might expect, will appear the same in-game as they do out of the game. This will include all the officially named variants such as the Legendary, Dark, Enchanted, Nitro, and Jade. It also includes many, though not all, of the promotional figures.
Chase variants, while they are often a bit more rare, they don't have to be. Here on SCL a Chase variant is one which does NOT appear as a variant in-game. When you put a Chase variant on the Portal you will see the regular, core version of the character in the game. If you are playing in SWAP Force, these figures will be marked as “Special” or “Rare”.
A brand new Chase variant fresh from the factory will start at Level 5 with 2100 Gold. Other than this, there is no advantage to these variants. They are solely for those collectors who want to “collect them all” or if you really like the look of the variant.
Secondly, variants are distributed to Skylanders fans and collectors through a variety of different channels.
To help you keep track of and possible locate some of these variants, each figure will also be categorized into one of the following types:
These variants are never announced. These are always Chase type variants that are randomly inserted into shipments (i.e. 1 in 50 cases). These shipments could be received by any retailer.
These figures are created with a specific holiday, season, or event in mind. They can be found at all retailers, but generally only receive one production run. If you buy early, you should not have a problem getting these figures, but as soon as they sell out in stores you will have to pay a premium price online if you want to get these variants.
As the name states, these figures can only be found at a specific retailer. This generally means that there are fewer produced than the Seasonal variants that are released everywhere.
During Spyro's Adventure and Giants, Store Exclusives were fairly rare commodities. Starting with SWAP Force though, it seems that the new Store Exclusives are more readily available.
To date, most of the Promotional figures have been in collaboration with Frito Lay. There are a few exceptions, but this is generally where the promotions start.
Most of these figures were only available for a short time during the promotion. A few, however, were later released in stores.
In this category I also include figures that are only available with a game and/or system bundle.
Throughout the year there are a number of different toy fairs and video game expos. If Activision chooses to make an appearance at any of these trade shows, there is a good chance that they will be handing out an exclusive figure.
Usually these figures never see the retail market, but there have been exceptions.
Major Trade Shows include:
Each year around Christmas time, Activision, as well as some of the Skylanders-related studios, hand out an exclusive figure to their employees.
These figures are meant to be kept by the employees as Activision has requested that their employees not sell them online. Regardless, from time to time you will be able to find one for sale, but they will not be cheap.
As pretty as some of these figures are, I would not count on ever adding them to your collection.