• Mattel And Hasbro Terrified Of Tablets Moving In On Their Turf

      Mattel and Hasbro are household names when it comes to toys. I grew up playing with action figures made by the companies, and Iím sure any person born in the 80s or early 90s has fond memories of G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, He-Man and others. Despite being giants in the toy industry, these companies are now facing a new kind of challenger in the form of tablets.




      An analyst with Needham and Company are saying that toy companies are starting to get a little scared for their futures. Kids are becoming increasingly interested in tablets and other technologies instead of the toys that generations past were so invested in. In fact, a recent survey of children found that many wanted iPads, iPhones and other devices for Christmas. Of course, the survey only asked about interest in technology-related gifts, but it could be inferred that kids really do want tablets instead of toys.

      For their part, Mattel and Hasbro are putting on a brave face. The companies say that nothing is wrong, but you can see the signs of change in their core business. The biggest toys retailer in the U.S., Toys-R-Us, unveiled its own tablet for kids in September called the Tabeo. Itís pretty obvious that whatís considered fun and entertaining for children is changing when even the toy stores are starting to give premium exposure to tablets.

      So what can these companies do to stave off their own demise? Get with the times and offer more technology related toys and products. There are ways to tie toys into tablets and video games. Activision proved that last year with the amazingly successful Skylanders that makes kids buy toys to unlock more characters in the game. Mattel could start up a new He-Man toy line and tie it into the latest mobile title for additional unlocks or bonuses. There are plenty of ways for traditional companies to embrace technology while staying true to their core focus. Itís just a matter of finding a solution.

      via WebProNews.com
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      Comments 5 Comments
      1. El Chuxter's Avatar
        El Chuxter -
        Unless they totally give up like comic books did in the face of video games (where they blamed all their ills on games, despite the latter being around and strong at the time of the highest comic sales), the toy companies should do fine.
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Tech toys are generally a flop. Skylander figures aren't actually toys, they're statues with NFC scan chips for the "portal" reader so that in order to play the game you buy the statues to unlock that content. They used this "we outsold Star Wars" claim with a limited metric - first quarter in a slump year for Star Wars while Skylanders was in its main phase.

        Right now, toys as a market are in a high-speed race to get more product out faster and faster. Where there used to be 1 or 2 refreshes a year, now pegs need new product monthly or retailers fear customers will lose interest. But there really isn't a mainstream market that hungers for that much product in any line, so that gives rise to the over-the-top variety problem, companies putting out product without making sure anybody wants it. There ends up being a lot of junk which becomes static that hides the signal of the major products.

        The key is to focus on delivering a quality experience with a satisfying narrative yet also allowing for play outside that narrative - imaginative play while remaining accessible is what's important. Tablets - like video games before them - are all about imaginative play, but there's a heavy cost factor at the startup and the devices are fragile. They also make for an unsatisfying gift-giving experience, a kid that already owns a tablet can't be given an app for a birthday present, only a gift card to the Google Play store or iTunes or the Amazon Appstore, and unless the kid is way into economics of things they won't be dazzled. You give a kid a giant Optimus Prime or AT-AT box for a present and they will be impressed. You make that toy important enough and interactive enough with other toys and the kid will enjoy it even while not playing with it, just knowing what they could do with it later.

        It wouldn't hurt to fix toy marketing either, very little of it is any good these days.
      1. Bel-Cam Jos's Avatar
        Bel-Cam Jos -
        When you let a machine (whatever version it is) be your source of imagination, THAT'S the issue. Tangible toys let you do almost WHATEVER you want, where there are still some limitations with a program. Running my finger across a keyboard or flat screen will never be as good as doing the playing myself. Although, I seldom "play" with my SW toys now; I just "collect" them.
      1. El Chuxter's Avatar
        El Chuxter -
        My in-laws gave my daughter an iPad for her birthday. (Why? Because she plays with Grandma's when she's down there. They assume it's because she loves to. It's because she has nothing else to do there.) Her response to getting an iPad? "Oh, cool, thanks." Her response to getting Legos and Barbies and dress-up stuff? "YAY! I LOVE IT! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!"

        Though I don't doubt that kids want tech gadgets (they always have--you know you wanted a GameBoy), I suspect the "kids prefer gadgets to toys" is being severely exaggerated by the same parents who rely on the media to tell them what their kids want, and the media whose "recommendations" are pretty transparent paid ads for junk that companies want to unload. (You know what I'm talking about. Every year, there's some piece of crap rotting on shelves for months because no kid actually wants it, then Good Morning America labels it as "hot" and it's sold out everywhere within a day because parents believe what they're told.)
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        Quote Originally Posted by Bel-Cam Jos View Post
        When you let a machine (whatever version it is) be your source of imagination, THAT'S the issue. Tangible toys let you do almost WHATEVER you want, where there are still some limitations with a program. Running my finger across a keyboard or flat screen will never be as good as doing the playing myself. Although, I seldom "play" with my SW toys now; I just "collect" them.
        My dad made the same argument about my Atari and NES video games in the '80s. The same argument was made 2 generations ago about toys like GI Joe: "the toy does all the imagination for the kid". A tablet lets a kid interact with a host of apps, if the kid isn't responding to a game they can scribble or color or draw or read or play music or whatever. Star Wars toys recreate a specific interactive environment just as a tablet game creates a specific interactive environment. Yes, toys can be taken out of their "interactive environment" box easier than a specific app on a tablet, but a tablet requires no cleanup and has no little parts to get lost in the carpet, so each offers more strengths and weaknesses, but I'd argue both fulfill similar roles to a kid in active play - it's the passive play, the imagination-spurring of seeing a toy on a shelf and imagining all the worlds that physical toys have benefit over tablets on, toys are tangible things at all times.

        Quote Originally Posted by El Chuxter View Post
        My in-laws gave my daughter an iPad for her birthday. (Why? Because she plays with Grandma's when she's down there. They assume it's because she loves to. It's because she has nothing else to do there.) Her response to getting an iPad? "Oh, cool, thanks." Her response to getting Legos and Barbies and dress-up stuff? "YAY! I LOVE IT! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!"

        Though I don't doubt that kids want tech gadgets (they always have--you know you wanted a GameBoy), I suspect the "kids prefer gadgets to toys" is being severely exaggerated by the same parents who rely on the media to tell them what their kids want, and the media whose "recommendations" are pretty transparent paid ads for junk that companies want to unload. (You know what I'm talking about. Every year, there's some piece of crap rotting on shelves for months because no kid actually wants it, then Good Morning America labels it as "hot" and it's sold out everywhere within a day because parents believe what they're told.)
        Holy crap, your in-laws gave a 5-year-old an iPad? That's way over the top inappropriate for her age. Good for her in reacting as such. Did you sell it for texting money?

        Kids will always want physical totems, but I do think the unlimited possibilities of the screen-world are now to a point where kids get more satisfying playtime out of them. The phenomenon of buying kids toys is a fairly new one, a hundred years ago there was just simple wooden blocks and train sets and BB guns and dollies, a kid got one or two of those a year and was thrilled, the rest of playtime was spent interacting with friends and their environment, or *gasp* reading. Toys can be very good for bringing kids together to mix playtime - your GI Joe figures fighting my Masters of the Universe figures, that sort of thing - but in the last generation they seem to have become a replacement for inter-kid interaction. As the world has seemed less and less safe to parents, and kids have gotten more and more conscious of toys as a status symbol and fashion statement, it's become easier for kids to rely on toys as a replacement for interaction rather than a reason for it. Tablets cannot bring kids together physically, but it can bring them together via internet gaming - and that's dangerous because video games can quickly become an emotional replacement for human interaction and personal achievement. But toys lately aren't an answer to either so they're simply cannibalizing sales from each other's markets.

        In another generation, 3D printers will be commonplace at home, the question of buying materials and hiring factories and creating product packaging and shipping finished items could very well become a thing of the past, then what? Do Hasbro and Mattel sell toys by licensing 3D printing designs, become the big record labels of the toy industry? That business model is a lesson in failure, big labels and big literature publishers now offer artists nothing whatsoever, those distribution models have shifted out of the hands of labels and publishers into the hands of the artists themselves - the same thing would happen to the big toy companies: why pay Hasbro to create a design you print at home when you can download an equally-exciting design from a clever kid who charges 1/50th the price? There is only one reason, and Hasbro's already all over it: branding. You can't legally buy a Transformers or My Little Pony item without Hasbro getting a cut, so they are working to create a larger brand base, to expand the recognizability of their board game and toy brands out of the toy aisle and into movies and TV, so that when it comes time to print a toy, you'll buy the GI Joe or Transformers design with its higher cost because of its license appeal.
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