I was having a delightful email chat with Ron Weingartener, co-author of the Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook, and he passed along a Bloomberg article titled, “Let’s Say It All Together: Nobody Knows Anything.” While a chunk of the article focuses on the film industry, it’s extremely apropos to the toy and game industry.
The article states: “There is an enormous degree of serendipity and good fortune that goes into a blockbuster movie. The same seems to be true of just about everything in life, from marriage to careers to stock portfolios” and I’d like to add toy and game ideas. While the inventors, designers, developers, and manufacturers can try their best to come up with the next great hit, it takes a sprinkling of uncontrollable somethings to make that a reality.
From an inventor’s perspective, the stars have to align to make a blockbuster hit. In the case of Doggie Doo, it sat on Lund and Company’s shelves for more than a decade before its time had arrived and it became an international hit. Every inventor relations person who has been in the business for a while has at least one story of a toy or game they passed on that ended up being a mega hit. But it's not just showing something at the magically right time, or having an inventor relations person know that they're looking at something amazing. There's so much more to it! As Ron pointed out in our conversation, "Industry companies search for the next hit in the face of ever changing consumer tastes, competition from other entertainment venues, and knowing the idea they are viewing, even if chosen, will take at least 12 months to get through R&D and procurement to market."
Every year there are toys and games that manage to float to the top and are the "must have" holiday item, some last past the holiday rush but others fade. It really takes something special to be an evergreen hit or a craze. And I'm sure we all can name a few that we were shocked were so successful -- just think about Pet Rock and some of the others listed on the “Top 10 Toy Crazes” from Time Magazine. Why did those 10 do so well? We could speculate, but I think it would be very hard to replicate without some magic fairy dust. Anyone seen Tinkerbell recently?
Overall I think the Bloomberg article is a great reminder that even the best of us only know so much. We can make strategic choices, try to play to the upcoming trends, or fill a much needed void in the marketplace, but our efforts will only get us close to a mega hit without that extra je ne sais quoi on our side.