Cinderella, dressed in yella
went upstairs to kiss her fella
made a mistake, kissed a snake
how many stitches did it take?
1, 2, 3,...
Jumping rope was, at least when I was a 6-year-old boy, a thing that girls mastered with an ease that still mystifies me. Particularly what astounded was their ability to do the dreaded "Hot Pepper." There I would be, in a line with other little kids, waiting my turn as the two big girls, one at each end, turned the rope. They would, at first, turn it at an easy pace, allowing a naive boy (me) to think that he had mastered the form…until….”HOT PEPPER!”
Set the table,
Don't forget the salt,
Yes, “Hot Pepper,” that moment when the rope would move immediately from an easy pace “Mable, Mable, Set the table…” to supersonic speed, causing the rope to smack into your head or tangle up your feet, causing embarrassment and bruises. Jump rope rhymes were so deceptive.
I was thinking about chants, rhymes, sidewalk songs or whatever you want to call them when it occurred to me that they might be an endangered species. Think about it, school recess is down to 15 minutes a day and children no longer play alone on the sidewalk. When do they have time to use, much less pass down, sometimes century old rhymes.
So, if older children no longer teach the chants to younger ones will the chants end up being stale rhymes in musty books or in odd parts of the Internet? It would be sad if the death of the chant were to be a side effect of too little time to play and too much parenting. It would be nice if the various toy and play industries took up causes like preserving sidewalk chants from extinction by advocating for more play time for kids in school and at home.
Below are some rhymes and, at the end, some websites where you can find more. If you have a favorite rhyme or were really good at “Hot Pepper” let us know.
Five little monkeys,
Jumping on the bed.
One fell off,
And bumped his head
Mama called the doctor,
And the doctor said:
"No more monkeys
jumping on the bed!"
I had a little puppy.
His name was Tiny Tim.
I put him in the bathtub,
To see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water.
He ate a bar of soap.
The next thing you know,
He had a bubble in his throat.
In came the doctor
(person jumps in).
In came the nurse
( person jumps in).
In came the lady
With the alligator purse
(person jumps in).
Out went the doctor
(person jumps out).
Out went the nurse
(person jumps out).
Out went the lady
With the alligator purse
(person jumps out).
and check out these websites for more rhymes:
"Spew" by sculptor Ron Ulicny
Serious Scrabble players spend a great deal of time memorizing the dictionary. Well, this year they have another 6500 words to add to their vocabulary. That is thanks to Collins Publishing and its Official Scrabble Words dictionary. With new words comes new controversy. Here are just a few of the new ones I have picked out. What do you think?
AUGH - The sound of frustration that people and mostly Charlie Brown makes when they just cannot take anymore.
BLECH - The sound you make when you are disgusted with something you just ate or heard.
EMOJI - Those little cartoon faces that people use to express emotions.
GRR - The sound dogs and some people make when they are angry.
LOLZ - Laughing out loud.
THANX - Another way to say thanks.
VAPE - Inhaling from those new vapor cigarettes.
Oh yes, in case you were worried, TWERKING made it in.
(Since writing this post I have been in contact with several people at Toys R Us and they tell me that they are aggressively seeking another location in Manhattan. So, it may not be the end of an era but be the beginning of a new one. Stay tuned.)
Some things made by man seem as permanent as mountains and oceans; particularly to children. FAO Schwarz is one of those things. Amazingly, FAO Schwarz, that icon of toys and play that has been around for 145 years, is closing its doors.
Who is to blame? Well, it isn't Geoffrey the Giraffe and his Toys R Us brand owners. They would have liked to keep the store open as much as they would like to maintain a presence for their Times Square store. It wasn't the parents with whom FAO maintained some of its past glory. Nor was it the kids who seemed to sense that there was something special about a store with guards who look like they had just stepped out of the Nutcracker.
So why did FAO Schwarz have to close? Blame it on exploding rents, the Internet and the passage of time. Yes, time that has made the store feel so special in a nostalgic sort of way was no match for the headwinds of modernity that brought a new sense of not just how to shop and where to shop for toys but the very definition of what is a toy.
Think of the parade of children who walked through those doors looking for magic during the Gilded Age, the Spanish American War, World Ware I, the birth of the Soviet Union, the Roaring 20's, the Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, the Psychedelic 60's, Viet Nam, Watergate, the end of the Soviet Union 9/11 and so much more.
That parade of kids would have dressed differently while walking through the store, boys in knickers and later in jeans; girls in frilly dresses and later in jeans as well. Whatever they were wearing they shared a feeling of anticipation just before they walked through those doors. What wonderful, magical, new thing would they see?
As we explore in our "The Impact of Demographics and Income on Toys Spending" global briefing, although the world's child population has been declining, this will be a short-lived phenomenon. The trend towards smaller families in many markets ties in with other cultural and income shifts that actually stand the global toys market in good stead. Our briefing analyses two key determinants of demand -demographic and income trends - to understand their impact on toys sales in the future.
Shrinking global child population is a short-lived phenomenon
The global child population has been declining, largely due to falling family sizes. However, this is a transitory trend and the child population is set to start increasing again.
Largest 0-14 year-old populations
In absolute terms, Asia Pacific and Africa and Middle East have the largest 0-14 yearold
populations. Conversely they also have relatively low spend per child.
Attractive toys markets: China vs Russia
China has by far the most households with an annual disposable income of over
US$10,000; however, the number of 0-14 year olds is expected to remain static over
2013-2018. This suggests good fundamentals for toys growth particularly in urban
areas. Between 2013-2018, Russia will record the highest increase in its 0-14 year-old
population, translating into more than 2.5 million more children, while having the fourth
biggest middle class.
Spend per child vs number of children per household
In countries where the average number of children per household is above one,
spending on traditional toys and games per child does not exceed US$70 in a given
Later families and working women
Overall, the older the average age of women at childbirth, the higher the spend on
traditional toys and games per child. As modern mothers continue to work, for various
reasons, the limits on parental time require products that can fill this gap. In almost all
countries where the average age of women at birth is high, spend per child on
traditional toys and games exceeded US$320 in 2013.
Single parent households
Single parent households tend to be among the poorest, creating a need for cheaper products. Low-priced, high-volume toys tend to find success in markets where single parent households are more common.
I am a self-professed nerd. I blame (or should I say credit?) my parents, whose family vacation plans alternated visits to educational destinations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, DC (No cruises to Aruba or trips to ski resorts for us, thanks. One spring break, my dad took my two brothers and me to a coal mine.) I devoured stacks of books from our town library each week—after completing my homework, of course. My school’s honors program generated plenty of extracurricular activities to keep our buzzing teenage minds occupied. I regularly skipped study hall or stayed after school to rehearse for mock trial, build a papier-mâché castle, or participate in a SimCity competition. Outside of the honors program, though, I tried to stifle my eagerness to skip ahead in our history textbooks and griped along with my classmates about difficult French assignments. I had watched enough ‘90s sitcoms to realize that being a nerd wasn’t “cool” and that I should attempt to blend in.
My younger brother Bob, however, had no such qualms; he embraced his own kind of nerdom, freely advertising his hobbies of fencing, partaking in Civil War reenactments, and playing Mage Knight (a collectible miniatures wargame). Bob crafted elaborate tablescapes for Mage Knight, deliberately positioning the tiny figurines on moss-covered rocks or under tiny trees. This miniatures wargame utilized figures called “warriors” which had pre-assigned points and statistics, eliminating the need for in-game reference books. Bob became so adept at combating enemy armies that he competed in—and occasionally won—Mage Knight tournaments in the Pittsburgh area. By the time I left for college, Bob had moved on to playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) with his gamer friends.
The LEGO Group has announced that it will enter the lucrative, fast-growing toys-to-life market with its LEGO Dimensions product line. Players would start by constructing an NFC-enabled portal; placing compatible characters and vehicles onto it unlocks them in a multi-platform video game. The video game, portal, and 3 characters are purchased in a starter pack expected to arrive in late September, with additional content and toys coming in subsequent releases. While rival entries into the category have been successful they revolve around a very linear experience where players purchase game characters represented by real-life figurines. The appeal of LEGO is the ability to throw away the instruction manual and building unique creations; replicating this experience in the virtual world would make LEGO Dimensions an offer kids and parents alike can’t resist.
Content to drive initial demand
Although bought as tangible real life objects toys-to-life are only as interesting and compelling as the virtual universe they are played in. LEGO Dimensions is being developed in a partnership with Warner Brothers and players will be playing though content from DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, and Back to the Future. All this blended together similarly to the plot of the LEGO Movie makes for an experience that caters to a wide audience. Game play also involves player-assembled vehicles, and even though these will initially be very simple and lack customization options it still provides a far less linear game experience than competing offerings. This is bound to make LEGO Dimensions one of the sought after toys in the upcoming winter holiday season.
Portal to long term success
The popularity of open-ended, non-linear games like Minecraft and increasing demand for traditional construction as well as educational toys has shown that the future of toys to life lies in experiences that emphasise creativity, freedom, and seamlessly blend real-life play with interactive virtual experiences. LEGO construction sets thrive by offering players content diversity and freedom not found anywhere else. The challenge is taking this into the virtual world, and the LEGO Dimensions portal is the key to this. Initially this will be a simple NFC reader that imports content into games by reading information from a chip inside figurines and vehicles. This technology is currently the industry standard when it comes to toys-to-life, but it makes vehicle building and design extraneous to the playing experience, and this is LEGO’s core appeal.
The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong inducted Scrabble in 2004. Since then we’ve made efforts to collect many different versions of the famous “scrambled word game.”
Visit The Strong’s National Toy Hall of Fame web page for Scrabble, and you’ll learn that unemployed architect Alfred M. Butts invented the game during the Great Depression. Butts first called his game Lexico, and later Criss Cross. The Strong holds one of very few known copies of the Criss Cross game board. Butts employed a blueprint method and then glued the paper print onto cardboard. Any player will note the similarity to today’s Scrabble board. Butts—who retained his patent and earned royalties on every set sold afterwards—sold the production rights to James Brunot, who tweaked the rules and changed the name to Scrabble. Sales dribbled along until the president of Macy’s discovered the game in 1952. Other stores quickly followed and by 1953 Brunot couldn’t produce enough games to satisfy the demand. Scrabble has sold steadily ever since.
The digital version does have some visual advantages not shared by the physical format. For example, the digital versions have some pretty cool 3D animation effects. The playing piece moves for you and if its Monopoly you are playing, your piece moves like its character; the cat moves like a cat, battleship sails forward, etc. I thought about Game of Life inventor Reuben Klamer when I read that this quote by Kit Eatson: “The 3-D number spinner is almost — though not quite — as satisfying to spin as the original.” When Reuben invented that spinner it was a totally fresh concept and it looks like it still is. Reuben, you were and are a man ahead of his times.
I have to say that as I read the review I felt a sense of future nostalgia for a time that is coming when the bulk of games, books and magazines will be transmitted digitally. Not because the physical formats are not as good but because future generations will not have a sense of nostalgia for what they never really had. They will prefer the digital because it fits with their world, as they know it.
Nintendo has just announced a new partnership with Tokyo-based mobile gaming and e-commerce company DeNA to develop game apps for smart devices featuring its iconic characters including Mario and Donkey Kong. As part of the deal, Nintendo will buy around 10% stake in the mobile gaming company marking a major shift in its global strategy.
As Euromonitor International highlighted in its latest Nintendo Global Company Profile last month, Nintendo's strategy of software exclusivity has been undermined by the rise of mobile gaming on smartphones and tablets, and ongoing technological improvements to these devices, especially as casual gamers form a core consumer group for the company. In the same profile, Euromonitor International rightly advised Nintendo to look at ways to leverage the strength of its games portfolio to develop apps for mobile devices.
Based in Kyoto, Japan, Nintendo is the world's leading video games company. However, the key player has witnessed its global value sales fall in recent years and this is despite the 2012 release of its next generation static video game console, WiiU. WiiU faces significant challenges as Sony and Microsoft's new consoles are changing consumer perceptions of consoles both in terms of the gaming experience and their wider role in home entertainment.
Furthermore, the hand-held video game consoles category, in which Nintendo remains dominant, is increasingly seeing its position undermined by mobile games, which is seeing strong growth driven by the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, and improvements to the gaming experiences on such devices. Nintendo has long pursued a strategy of allowing its games to be played only on its own hardware platforms. This strategy risks falling out of step with the times, as smartphones and tablets expand the range of opportunities for games and undermine demand for hand-held consoles in developed and emerging markets alike. Its new partnership with DeNA is addressing this issue.
Digital gaming to reach new heights
During our training, conservators usually specialize in a specific type of material, such as paper or paintings. As we become professionals, we find ourselves in institutions with diverse collections which requires broad conservation knowledge for all of the artifacts under our care, not just those comprised of our favorite material. Nowhere is this truer than at The Strong, where the museum’s collections range from paper dollhouse furniture to Barbie dolls to coin-operated arcade machines. The conservation challenges presented by this wide-ranging collection force me to think outside of the box every single day.
This was true when I was tasked with finding a way to safely mount and display “Mr. Monopoly.” The unique painting, which is in the form of an oversized jigsaw puzzle, was created by artist Eric Waugh during a performance at The Strong’s 2014 Play Ball. Mr. Waugh wowed the crowd by painting each of the puzzle pieces, which were mounted individually to the wall with Velcro, out of order. At the end, he assembled the pieces to reveal a stunning portrayal of everyone’s favorite capitalist, Mr. Monopoly. The painting was later auctioned off and generously donated to the museum by the auction winner. Though everyone was excited, we also recognized that the unusual format would present a few challenges. Why not just stick it in a frame and hang it, you ask? Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
As highlighted in our recent global company profile, LEGO, the world’s third biggest manufacturer of traditional toys and games, continues its dynamic expansion bolstered by the success of 2014’s The LEGO Movie. The world’s leading construction toys manufacturer was among the most dynamic toymakers in the world over 2009-2013, more than doubling its sales.
LEGO’s global strength is founded on its dominance of the construction toys category, in which it held a 65% value share in 2013. Construction toys accounted for 94% of the company’s global toys and games value sales during the year, with games and puzzles responsible for most of the remainder. However, LEGO decided to phase out its LEGO Games board game product line in 2013, judging that it did represent a sustainable fit with the company’s core long-term operations.
Utku Tansel, Head of Toys and Games at Euromonitor, presented the “Toys and Games: Global Trends, Developments and Prospects” address at Hong Kong Toys Fair and Conference over 12-15 January, highlighting some of the major macro drivers affecting toys and games sales globally, including economic and demographic trends. He also showcased the findings from Euromonitor International’s global research focusing on the performance of traditional toys and games, video games and digital gaming in key markets worldwide, providing data as well as commentary. Furthermore, his keynote speech featured the most recent fundamental developments affecting toys and games’ distribution worldwide.
The 41st edition of the fair included various themed zones, ranging from educational toys and games, electronic and radio/remote control toys, festive and party items, and outdoor and sports toys to toy packaging, smart-tech toys, plush toys, dolls and video games. The show also featured a Kidult World, exhibiting hobby goods, vehicles, mechanical toys and action figures.
One of the main trends to emerge at the show, which is organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and is the largest toy industry event in Asia Pacific, was the rise of technology in toys. The popular smart-tech toys zone brought together innovative toys combining traditional elements with smart technology, including mobile apps. Euromonitor International’s latest global research also confirms that across almost all markets traditional toys and games with electronics components are on the rise, changing the face of the industry. The increasing penetration and usage of tablets and smartphones, the rising popularity of children’s tablets, as well as manufacturers’ growing enthusiasm for technologically app-enhanced toys in recent years, are stimulating this trend.
The fact that smartphones and tablets are increasingly being used by children at a younger age is having a negative impact on demand for traditional toys and games. Parents are more comfortable allowing children to play on their electronic devices and while this has positive benefits for the purposes of educational development and learning, health experts claim spending excessive amounts of time on smartphones or tablets could have a negative impact on childhood development. To keep up with current trends, some toys and games manufacturers are developing e-connected toys which feature an integrated iPhone or iPad application, such as Hasbro’s electronic owl-shaped toy, Furby Boom, Nerf’s Lazer Tag and Fisher-Prices’ Apptivity branded toys.
I was deeply saddened to hear that Ralph H. Baer had died on December 6, 2014, at the age of 92. As numerous other writers have noted, Ralph invented the “Brown Box” home video game console (produced as the Magnavox Odyssey) and the electronic game Simon. He donated his professional papers to The Strong, and I had the privilege of processing them in 2013. Ralph’s papers spanned more than 40 years of his lengthy career in the toy and game industry. As I worked on making his collection available for research use, carefully removing thousands of staples (because Ralph never used one staple when eight would do) and verifying that his carefully dated pages were in order, I realized that I was getting attached to Ralph. (Fellow archivists, back me up here—when you spend an extended amount of time examining a person’s handwriting and deciphering their personal organizational system, you start to feel like you know the person, right?)
The Ralph H. Baer papers in The Strong’s Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play provide amazing insight into the thought process behind many of Ralph’s creations from inception to production. He kept meticulous records; he frequently said that the most important advice he could give to budding inventors was to document everything, making sure to date and sign every paper. An inventor may conceive of thousands of product ideas throughout his or her lifetime, only to develop a single contraption that makes it to the marketplace. Ralph, however, successfully produced dozens of memorable playthings. He owned 50 patents in the United States and occasionally found himself tied up in legal proceedings involving his designs.
As we explore in our Global Licensing Continues to Stimulate Traditional Toys and Games global briefing, licensing is continuing to have an increasing impact on traditional toys and games with more toy manufacturers looking to create fresh intellectual property using TV and films and then leveraging these characters' popularity to increase toy sales. However, as this trend becomes increasingly more prevalent, competition increases, making opportunities more challenging to find globally.
By 2015, Asia Pacific is projected to overtake Western Europe in toy sales
Rising disposable incomes, new product launches, the increasing penetration of organised retailing in rural areas and second-tier cities, as well as strong demographic fundamentals have all contributed to the region's outstanding performance in traditional toys and games in recent years.
2013 the strongest year for licensed toys to date
More toy tie-in films scheduled to be released will continue to drive sales of licensed toys and as licensed toys still only make up around 25% of sales of traditional toys and games, there is still scope for growth globally.
Only four of the top eight most licensed categories registered growth in absolute sales in 2013
Out of these four, construction toys was the highest with absolute sales growth of US$138 million in 2013. However, the percentage of licensed toys remained more-or- less static in 2013, at around 30%, so growth in licensed toys has not necessarily come from a decline in non-licensed toys, but rather from the growth of the category as a whole.
Toy sales still linked to new film releases. However, film franchise fatigue could hamper growth in film tie-in product sales
As more licensing opportunities become available from new film content, increasing competition between toy manufacturers for the best licences could leave smaller toy companies in the dark and bigger companies with lower margins from licensed products. Therefore, a well-balanced licensing strategy is potentially more important now than it has ever been.
Toy manufacturers should continue to invest in developed markets whilst looking to grow in emerging markets
Many developed market consumers already have the per capita disposable income to afford the more expensive licensed versions of toys, so they are more likely to purchase them. Emerging markets' per capita disposable incomes are forecast to grow further, so gaining a foothold in the licensing market across these countries should pay off.
Euromonitor International attended Brick 2014: Built for LEGO Fans, formerly known as The LEGO Show, held between 27-30 November in ExCel, London. Originally scheduled to take place in May at The O2, the organisers had to move to the bigger ExCeL Centre to accommodate the strong demand for tickets. It seems like it is the company's preference to create its own show from time to time, making sure that no-one else steals the limelight.
The event featured workshops with professional brick-builders as well as LEGO designers, a brick marketplace (conveniently named Brick Lane – where it was possible to pick up new and second-hand LEGO) and impressive displays from around the world (Brick City). The show demonstrated many extreme creations built using simple pieces – including models of London’s St Pancras Station and Tower Bridge as well as a giant mosaic built by exhibition visitors. There were also themed play areas aimed at inspiring both youngsters and adult visitors by giving them the opportunity to do some building themselves.
In my last posting, I wrote about the invasion by Nintendo, into the phygital (physical + digital) game department through their launch of Amiibo, a line of Nintendo based action figures that interact with video games. The phygital game genre, pioneered by Activision’s Skylanders and grown bigger by Disney Infinity, is generating big dollars in the action figure category. The only thing is that they are not counted as action figures but as video game accessories and they are sold in the video game area; not the toy department.
Nintendo is, however, bringing something a little different to the arena. Nintendo skews older and that will stretch and not cannibalize the market. As a result, the Phygital segment will become more dominant and we will see Nintendo join Disney and Activision in being a force to be reckoned with by traditional toy and game companies. Those who look to Hasbro, Mattel and Lego as the only major toy players will need to take another look and adjust their strategies accordingly.
If Nintendo takes off and brings older players into Phygital play it could be a big win for a forward thinking retailer. Toys ‘R’ Us, Wal-Mart, GameStop, Best Buy and Target would do well to ask themselves these three questions:
Activision’s Skylanders made phygital play (physical + digital) a major force in toys and video games. In fact, its action figures generate more revenue than traditional figures like GI Joe or Transformers. You won’t, however, find them in the toy department. Deemed to be not action figures but video game accessories, they are housed in video gaming departments.
The success of Skylanders drew Disney with its hugely successful Infinity line into the phygital arena. That has caused traditional toy and video game companies to get involved as well. The latest player is Nintendo, an old school video game company. They have launched Amiibo, a line of action figures based upon traditional Nintendo characters like Mario that allow the player, as with Skylanders, to mix and match the physical with the virtual.
The 12 new Amiibo figures include Mario, Fox, Link and Donkey Kong. By owing a figure, a player can pit them against each other in Super Smash Bros. It’s a bit similar to how Disney is leveraging all of its characters through Infinity.
Why did Nintendo decide to go phygital? One reason may well be the success that apps have had in pulling video game players away from their consoles and onto their mobile devices. For example, the Wii U console has not generated anywhere near the numbers expected and that of course has a downstream impact on software sales. Nintendo needed to do something different and their entry into the Phygital space is expected to add badly needed revenue.
Nintendo’s products skew a little older than those from Disney and Skylanders and that’s a good thing; more on that in my next posting.
We at Global Toy Experts and Global Toy News believe that the convergence of all kinds of play is the major storyline of the 2010's (or whatever you call this decade). As a result, we will begin highlighting examples of convergence. In this case, presenting the GolfBoard. Skateboarding meets golf to provide a way for active, younger golfers to get around the course.
It appears that board games may be the answer to world peace, at least world peace in the school cafeteria. That’s according to a feel good article by Lindsey Christ on ny1, a New York City elevision station.
Here is how Christ puts it: “Seven schools across the city are experimenting with ways to improve the middle school cafeteria—a setting infamous for cliques, bullying and boredom.” I can remember my middle school cafeterias as a place where hamburgers were grey and lunch was taken with a glass of angst.
It appears that the test appears to be proving that board games may be a great way to make lunch a more pleasant experience. Indeed, it seems possible that a game like "Trouble" can keep you out of trouble. According to the article, the kids check out games like "Uno", "Connect 4" and a big favorite, Chess on their way to the lunchroom.
Well, paint me blue and call me Grover—Sesame Street premiered 45 years ago today, on November 10, 1969. With more than 4,300 episodes to date, it is one of the longest-running shows in television history. My colleague Scott Eberle has written about the series’ cultural and educational impact. And as The Strong inducts three new playthings into its National Toy Hall of Fame, it’s worth mentioning that the Toy Hall’s honorees abound throughout Sesame Street’s run. (Big Bird alone offers a treasure-trove, from his cherished teddy bear, Radar, to his mildly worrisome ability to roller skate.*) If the National Toy Hall of Fame inductees weren’t already emblazoned in our hearts for their ability to foster learning and creativity, then their endearing appearances on Sesame Street may do the trick.
Dollhouse: Episode 0131 (1970)
The first episode of Sesame Street’s second season is sponsored, appropriately, by the number two. The segment, “Doll House,” emphasizes the theme ad infinitum: two happy girls set up tea for two little dolls before tucking them into two tiny beds. The final 20 seconds of the clip demonstrate why people who have two kittens can’t own anything as nice as a dollhouse.**
Checkers: Episode 1227 (1979)
Ernie happens upon Bert playing checkers with his pigeon, Bernice, who pecks at the pieces aimlessly as she learns the game. Bernice makes for a more challenging opponent than Ernie, but Bert seems a little impatient nevertheless.
Marvel and DC have no plans to stop making movies; at least until 2020. Both companies announced thier movie lineups through 2020 last week so let's take a closer look at what this might mean for those who plan to manufacture and sell products based upon these properties.
Here is a list I put together showing both company's releases by month and year. My comments in my next posting.
|Marvel||Avengers: Age of Ultron||May-15|
|DC||Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice||Mar-16|
|Marvel||Captain America 3: Civil War||May-16|
|Marvel||Guardians of the Galaxy 2||May-17|
|Marvel||Fantastic Four 2||Jul-17|
|Marvel||Thor 3: Ragnarok||Jul-17|
|Marvel||Amazing Spiderman 3||TBD - 2018|
|Marvel||Avengers: Infinity War Part One||May-18|
|Marvel||Avengers: Infinity War Part Two||May-19|
|DC||Justice League Part 2||Jun-19|
Seinfeld is not, as people often claim, a “show about nothing.” It is a television show about four narcissists whose seemingly petty dialogue and ripple-effect exploits produced a significant impact on the modern pop culture landscape.
I confess―I’m a Seinfeld devotee. In fact, I recently completed my own personal “Summer of George,” where I re-watched every episode from the pilot through the finale. While I frequently caught myself reciting the lines along with the characters, I realized the brilliance of the show was in its relatability for a wide audience. I’ve been in many-a-situation where I’ve incredulously thought, “I feel like I’m on Seinfeld.” (Ask me about the time I reserved a rental car in France and ended up sputtering “You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation, and that’s really the most important part” at the counter attendant.) Some of my favorite vignettes from the show involve Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer chatting around a booth at the ubiquitous Monk’s Café. Other stories depict daily life in Manhattan: commuting, running errands, ordering take-out. Peripheral characters come and go, making their mark on the series with memorable catchphrases (“No soup for you!”) or descriptors (“she’s a low-talker”). Our four protagonists, though often selfish, just want to be successful and have fun.
Seinfeld is actually quite playful. From the Superman figurine displayed prominently in Jerry’s apartment to the games and sports played throughout the series, the show’s writers convey nostalgia, competition, and creativity. Plots involving play are as common as the gang’s visits to the Cineplex. Long-time fans of the show will recall episodes highlighting the game of Risk, Susan’s doll collection, and Kramer’s penchant for driving golf balls into the ocean. Several of my much-loved installments, listed below, rely heavily on toys or games to advance the storyline.
“The Bubble Boy” (Season 4, Episode 7)
En route to the Hamptons, Jerry is supposed to make a pit stop at the home of one of his biggest fans, the Bubble Boy (“He’s a boy, who lives in a bubble!”). While Jerry and Elaine get lost, George and his fiancée Susan end up at the Bubble Boy’s house. To avoid awkward family chit-chat, George and Susan play a game of Trivial Pursuit with the Bubble Boy.
Euromonitor International attended the Brand Europe Licensing Fair, the only pan-European event dedicated to licensing and brand extension, held between 7-9 October in Olympia, London. The show was officially the biggest to date in its 16 year history, featuring around 235 exhibitors of which over 55 were new. Bandai Namco, the world’s fifth largest toy maker, also decided to attend for the first time this year. Featuring three distinct showrooms, namely Character and Entertainment, Brands and Life Style and Art, Design and Image, the exhibition’s span covered many industries and categories including traditional toys and games, video games, film, TV, entertainment, sports, automotive, publishing, art and design, fashion charity and heritage licensing.
Three out of the top five largest toys manufacturers globally, Mattel, Hasbro and Bandai, were all present at the show, the first two boasting very large showrooms, a true reflection of their emphasis on licensing. Some of the world’s biggest entertainment businesses and film producers including Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and Viacom also had considerable size booths at the show. Apart from Mattel, Disney, Bandai and Cartoon Network, all of these companies also held presentations at the Screening Suit highlighting their successes over the past years, while sharing their strategic licensing planning for 2015 and beyond with the audience, hoping to help them to secure further lucrative deals through intellectual property rights, also known as royalty fees. Yet, many eyes still looked for the world’s most successful toys company, LEGO, once again.
The absence of the world’s third largest toy maker and number one construction toys manufacturer was rather noticeable at the exhibition. LEGO has been the best performing company in traditional toys and games, doubling its global revenue over the past five years. Although the company’s own properties, including Friends, City, Ninjago, Chima and Minifigures, have been performing extremely well, LEGO also very much owes its enviable success to the popularity of its licensed product lines such as Star Wars, Marvel Super Heroes, Disney Princess, Lord of the Rings and Minecraft.
In 2014, LEGO continued to expand its licensed products portfolio with popular properties, such as the launch of The Simpsons range, as well as the expansion of its existing Minecraft, Disney Princess and Super Heroes lines. Its brand new movie tie-in range, based on Disney’s highly popular Frozen cartoon film, will also hit the shelves in 2015.
Since LEGO commands a 65% value share in construction toys globally, the dominant player’s non-attendance meant lack of representation for the most dynamic toys category at the Brand Licensing Europe once again this year. Construction has been the most dynamic category in traditional toys and games enjoying double-digit value growth over 2008 – 2012. In 2013, it was still the best performing category, recording 8% value growth globally. With a forecast 9% CAGR, construction is projected to drive growth in global toy sales, adding some US$4.5 billion, at constant 2013 prices, over 2013-2018.
As a privately-owned enterprise, LEGO’s preference for keeping its licensing business very much away from public eye has been its policy for many years. With no shareholder directly responsible to, the toy maker also uses this as a competitive advantage over its larger competitors such as Mattel and Hasbro. LEGO spent five years on research and development of its Friends range, which has been a massive hit since its launch, creating a girl’s category in construction from scratch, prompting others to follow.
Until the company decides to review its relatively secretive stand, Cuusoo (www.ideas.lego.com), which means “wish” in Japanese, where fans can submit ideas to be voted on by other users (once an idea has 10,000 votes, it is reviewed by LEGO and could be brought into production) might well be the only publicly-available source indicating where it might head in licensing next. Wall-E, Ghostbusters HQ, LEGO Lightsaber, Doctor Who and X-Men: X-Mansion have already exceeded the 10,000 mark on the website and are currently being reviewed by the company for production.
My friends and I embrace game nights: snacks, beverages, stuffed mascots, inspirational posters. Some people don’t, probably because not everyone can handle it when (not if) their true colors emerge in the throes of battle. Similarly, television series use games as plot devices to place characters in opposition to each other, draw out the best (and worst) in their personalities, and reinforce the show’s central themes. Here are some clear winners.
Seinfeld: “The Label Maker”
Quirky Kramer and slimy Newman play Risk, a slow-paced game of global conquest. After six hours, they need a break. Kramer will not trust Newman alone with the board and stashes it at Jerry’s, calling his apartment neutral territory, “like Switzerland.” Kramer stakes out Jerry’s apartment and catches Newman sneaking in to tamper with the board. Later, Kramer is closing in on the win. Bickering on the subway with the game board on their laps, Kramer and Newman catch the attention of a fellow traveler offended by their trivialization of Eastern Europe’s political affairs. The game ends violently. Somehow Newman manages to consider this draw equivalent to a win.
Cheers: “The Art of the Steal”
When simpleminded bartender Woody has trouble understanding economics, Norm assures him, “Nothing will explain the process quicker than a simple game of Monopoly.” The two sit down with Frasier and Cliff over Norm’s well-worn copy, which is a hodgepodge of pieces from other games, much like the odd mix of patrons who converge on the bar. Snooty Frasier accuses the others of being childish for squabbling over who will serve as banker—until Frasier himself loses his temper when they won’t let him have his favorite token, the race car. Frasier throws another fit when he loses despite playing by the rules while everyone else cheated. However, he quickly realizes his loss is the perfect way to teach Woody that economics do not operate on a principle of fairness.
In my last posting I wrote about my work on "Mapping Play" and the previously unseen linkages I am finding. I ended by noting that one of the places my efforts have taken me is the recognition that: “The business of play has moved from competing for space (square inches on a store shelf) to competing for time (available time to play in a child’s or adult’s life).”
If you see yourself as being in the toy or video game industry, you spend much of your energy attempting to sieze as much physical space as possible, most of it at your competitor’s expense. If, however, you see yourself as being a part of the play industry, you realize that the battle for space is just a skirmish in the bigger battle for time to play.
The battle for playtime certainly involves competition but in the bigger sense it really calls for collaboration. Why, because our society currently deems play as an unessential and as a result the available time to play has been in a steady decline.
Euromonitor International attended the second World Congress of Play in San Francisco on 8-10 September 2014, which brought the world’s leading diverse play companies together. Presenting at this key industry event for the second year running, Utku Tansel made a “Global Trends in Play: Consumer Fundamentals Falling into Place” address, focusing on some of the key findings from Euromonitor International’s latest global research, looking into the performance of traditional toys and games, video games and digital gaming, providing data as well as commentary.
Among others, one key trend that emerged at the congress was the unstoppable rise of digital gaming in the overall play industry. In 2013, digital gaming, a combination of PC/console game downloads, online games and mobile games, was the most dynamic category in overall toys and games globally, recording over 12% growth in value terms. The increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets, an improved gaming experience on these devices, as well as new game launches, all contributed greatly to the category’s phenomenal performance. Alongside the arrival of much anticipated next-generation console launches (Xbox One and PS4), digital gaming’s dynamism was one the main facilitators helping the global video games market to record a positive performance for the first time since 2009.
2013 was certainly a very interesting year, as, for the first time, major static game consoles faced an environment that is increasingly shaped by well-established digital gaming. Historically, the video games has been cyclical; that is, each time a new video game console is released, it does exceptionally well initially, and then declines until the next console is released. However, due to the growth of digital gaming, the industry has almost levelled out. This has led to slower growth rates for video games hardware than were seen following previous major console releases, perhaps putting an end to this once cyclical console cycle. In relation to video games software, as the shift from packaged software to digital gaming has become more pronounced, the category has continued to suffer for a fifth consecutive year, declining by 1% globally in 2013.
In developed markets, PCs and laptops are taking a backseat as smartphone owners use this smaller, more convenient device to surf the internet everywhere they go. In emerging markets, the mobile phone has become a leapfrog technology. This trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Thanks to the rising demand for mobile phones and the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets, mobile games was one of the fastest growing categories in digital gaming and in overall video games in 2013, recording 15% value growth globally.
Smartphones and tablets are expected to continue their phenomenal growth, stimulating further growth in mobile games. The category is projected to record a CAGR of 10% between 2013 and 2018, generating an additional US$3.2 billion in global sales.
By 2018, digital gaming is forecast to account for almost 35% of overall value sales of video games globally, up from 28% in 2013, whereas both video games hardware and software’s shares are projected to decline. In absolute terms, global sales of digital gaming are expected to grow by US$12.7 billion to reach US$31.5 billion over the next five years. A very large majority of this growth, some US$11.0 billion, is forecast to come from three regions, namely Asia Pacific, North America and Western Europe.
The US and China are projected to contribute more than US$6.0 billion combined to global sales of digital gaming over 2013-2018. In the US, by far the world’s largest digital gaming market, PC and console downloads will likely see the strongest growth. In China, however, as the move from free-to-play to subscription models becomes more apparent, online games is forecast to register the fastest growth in absolute terms.
With the maturity of digital gaming being tested for the first time by major console releases, 2014 and beyond will undoubtedly witness more exciting transitions within the overall play industry.
What is your game? There seem to be an infinite number of games to play with one simple deck of playing cards. What game did you learn, perched on your parents’ or grandparents’ knees? What game brings you feelings of home and belonging?
My family’s game was Rummy. After we had mastered Go Fish, we were armed with egg carton card holders (30 years before the collective creativity of Pinterest) and introduced to the game, “according to Hoyle.” My sister and I learned the game by losing spectacularly to our parents. We learned to discard defensively, dropping a card we needed so that someone else didn’t get the card they needed. We watched everyone’s hand after getting burned by scooping up a long string of discards, only to have the next player go out on three Aces. We figured out that my father was always holding: keeping his cards until he could play them all at once with a victorious cackle. At our kitchen table—over ginger ale, corn chips, and a deck of cards—my sister and I were initiated into the social mechanics of our people: competition was fierce but friendly (once you learned to dish out your own victorious cackles), rules were followed, and intelligence and strategy were prized.
My sister went to college in Ohio and was dismayed to find that it was Euchre territory. I find Euchre players terrifying. A friend once gave me a quick tutorial in order to make a foursome to play the game. I couldn’t pick it up quickly enough and the three of them were furious. Years later, I witnessed the rages of a senior group that played Euchre at the library. From my office I could hear the angry voices rise until someone would pound the table and stomp off, swearing never to return. They would all be back the next week to start the angry cycle over again.
Pendulous grey clouds loom ominously to the west. Today is not an outdoor day. Salvation is in the closet, where colorful boxes of boards, cards, and tokens beckon us into other worlds. Games pass the time, make us laugh, and strengthen bonds among loved ones. The Strong is proud to preserve the history of games and inventors. As I tend to do, I turn to television and find characters having a grand old time creating their own games, too. I don’t foresee them experiencing the same levels of success as their counterparts represented at the museum, but why don’t you decide?
Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation
The Cones of Dunshire
As an 18-year-old mayor, Ben developed an ambitious winter sports complex that bankrupted his town. At his bachelor party, he elected to play The Settlers of Catan over other forms of entertainment. When last left to his own devices, he buried himself in stop-motion animation. Finally, while unemployed, Ben unleashes his most epic creation: The Cones of Dunshire. The rules are so convoluted, the setting and cast so expansive, that Ben can’t figure out where to begin explaining them. His geeky delirium is charming. Parks and Rec trots out Ben’s game in later episodes to the delight of accountants and gamers alike, and a few dozen superfans will play a real-life demo tomorrow at Gen Con in Indianapolis. (If you’re there, Mayfair Games will be using a floor game with giant pieces, so it’s worth watching from the sidelines, even if you didn’t spring for one of the $100 tickets benefiting Indy’s Food Bank.)
I find this continuing mash-up between forms of play and entertainment to be fascinating. That was why I found it so interesting that none other than Paul McCartney, one of the most important composers of the last 50 years, has applied his musical talent to the world of video games. Gaming has truly grown up.
According to a Rolling Stone article by Kory Grow “An Easy Game to Play; Paul McCartney Composes Video Game Soundtrack:” “…the former Beatle has collaborated on the score to the PlayStation and Xbox game Destiny. The singer-songwriter has even recorded a theme song, reportedly about hope…”
Euromonitor International’s latest research reveals accelerating global growth for toys and games, with the market in 2013 registering its strongest performance of the last five years as sales amounted to US$153 billion. As the discrepancy in performance between developed and emerging regions continued to widen, the North American and Western European markets remained relatively stagnant in 2013, affected by continuing economic problems, while emerging market regions such as Latin America and Eastern Europe stimulated global growth. Both traditional toys and games, which accounts for 55% of overall toys and games sales globally, and video games (including digital gaming) recorded around 4% value growth in 2013. Steady real term growth is expected to continue to 2018.
In overall toys and games, Turkey, India, Romania, Brazil and Argentina were the industry's top five fastest growing markets globally, all recording over 14% growth in value terms in 2013. Rising disposable incomes, strong demographic fundamentals, rising urbanisation, the increasing penetration of organised retailing in rural areas and second/third-tier cities as well as new product launches contributed to the outstanding performances in these countries.
Top 10 Fastest Growing Traditional Toys and Games Markets, Global, 2013-2018, CAGR, % (RSP)
Brazil is projected to become the fourth biggest traditional toys and games market globally by 2017, overtaking both the UK and France along the way. Growth will be driven above all by a combination of positive GDP growth, low unemployment and rising disposable income. At 48 million, Brazil has the largest 0-14-year-old population in Latin America, and spend per child stood at US$80 in 2013, indicating further room for growth. In actual terms, Brazil is forecast to be the second best performing traditional toys and games market globally, just behind China, generating some US$1.3 billion in additional sales over the next five years. Scientific/educational toys, construction and radio/remote control toys are all expected to record double-digit CAGRs over 2013-2018. In 2013, Brazil was also one of the top 10 most dynamic traditional toys and games markets, recording value growth of 10% compared to a global average of 4%.
Russia is the largest traditional toys and games market in Eastern Europe, accounting for some 60% of the region’s sales in value terms. As the demographic situation remains one of the main drivers of toys and games growth, positive birth rate dynamics and government support of families with several children resulted in value growth of 11% for traditional toys and games in 2013. Construction, pre-school and scientific/educational toys were the fastest growing categories. Over the next five years video games is forecast to post a better performance, although in absolute terms traditional toys and games is set to be more dynamic, generating a further US$335 million in additional sales. Overall growth in traditional toys and games is expected to be slower than the review period CAGR due to a slowdown in the birth rate and gradual market saturation.
In the US, the biggest toys and games market globally, video games recorded a positive performance for the first time since 2008, recovering from an 11% decline the previous year, thanks largely to the launches of much anticipated next-generation consoles, namely the Xbox One and PS4, as well as digital gaming. In 2013, digital gaming accounted for 21% of overall video games in the US, with this share set to rise to almost 31% by 2018. PC and console game downloads was the fastest growing category in digital gaming while online games posted the sharpest fall as many companies continued to adopt a free-to-play model. Despite the release of new consoles, physical games did not see a rise in sales as video games software posted a further 5% value decline in 2013 due to extremely low sales in the months prior to the launch of the new systems. In addition, physical PC game sales dropped dramatically as popular titles such as Diablo 3 and the new World of Warcraft were released in 2012, causing a drop off in 2013.
My family was cutting-edge back in the 1980s. We had a TRS-80. My father subscribed to 80 Micro. He dabbled in BASIC programming. My parents and my sister played early adventure games such as Zork and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. We were the most technologically advanced family on the block.
I was not impressed.
I hated computer games. I could not understand the appeal of sitting for hours, huddled over a glorified television screen with a tape player attached to it. I preferred books, Barbies, and using my own imagination. My father loves to tell stories of me stomping my feet in frustration, yelling, “Are you guys still playing that stupid game?” My family was bonding over a game of strategy, with enemies to defeat, puzzles to solve, trolls to outwit.
I didn’t get it.
Eight years later we had an IBM 486 computer with a graphics card, a sound card, and a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive. I was still not impressed—until I met Rosella.
Euromonitor International’s latest research reveals another year of accelerating global growth for toys sales in 2013, with a deepening discrepancy in performance between developed and emerging regions. Value sales of traditional toys and games remained flat in North America and Western Europe, while global growth was underpinned mainly by Latin America and Eastern Europe. In traditional toys and games, construction was the most dynamic category followed by arts and crafts globally in 2013.
Utku Tansel, Head of Toys and Games, presented the Toys and Games: Key Trends Shaping Consumer Demand address at PlayCon held in Arizona, US over May 7-9, highlighting some of the major macro drivers affecting toys and games sales worldwide, including economic and demographic trends, while focusing on the global performance of traditional toys and games, video games and digital gaming. His keynote speech also included an assessment of youth leisure time activities and the role of technology, as well as the typical purchase decision-making process for global consumers when they are buying toys and games.
One of the key trends to emerge at the congress, which was attended by over 150 high-profile toy industry professionals from key companies and organisations, was the unstoppable rise of internet retailing in traditional toys and games. The preliminary findings from Euromonitor International’s latest global research, due to be published in June, confirms this important trend, now shaping the toy distribution landscape worldwide. Increasing internet penetration and usage, competitive pricing and wide product availability have made internet retailing a clear winner in traditional toys and games.
Global internet retailing of traditional toys and games amounted to more than US$8.3 billion in 2013 and, as highlighted at PlayCon, Amazon is the world’s biggest online retailer of toys. Having started as a books specialist in 1994, it has since expanded into other items, and now has a dedicated toys and games page, stocking a wide variety of toys.
Amazon has a global reach, with deliveries to more than 160 countries worldwide. In addition, Amazon has developed twelve specific websites in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, China, Japan, India, Mexico and Brazil. An extensive international presence makes the retailer more attractive to niche toy suppliers, such as in educational/scientific toys, which can harness a wider consumer audience through Amazon. The relationship is symbiotic, as Amazon in turn benefits by having a larger variety of toys on its website.
Familiarity and security are among the most important characteristics consumers look for when they shop online, and having a well-established online store has made it easier for Amazon to transition into toys. Amazon had over a 12% share of the global internet retailing market in 2013, more than five percentage point ahead of its closest rival, Alibaba Group Holding.
The popularity of on-line shopping will continue to increase, with most growth happening in emerging markets. Currently, in almost all emerging regions, although internet retailing is one of the most dynamic channels for traditional toys and games, it still represents just a fraction of toy distribution. By 2020, 40% of the global population is expected to use the internet, reducing the digital divide between developed and emerging markets. Many of the most promising emerging economies, notably China and India, could potentially possess some of the most attractive internet retailing environments in the world to tap into. While credit card ownership and delivery may be a challenge, internet retailing remains a very strong option for many toymakers, particularly niche ones, to reach the population outside the main metropolitan centres.
There are lots of brands we get warm-fuzzy feelings about because we recall them from our childhood. Some brands rely on the “warm-fuzzies” to drive sales and it makes sense: if I loved something when I was a kid, why wouldn’t I want to share that experience with my child? But what happens if a toy or game is long forgotten? Maybe it wasn’t a blockbuster or didn’t have a huge market presence – does that mean that it can’t benefit from the “warm-fuzzies?”
I recently saw the game Choco from Tactic. I recalled having as a child and playing it over and over with my sisters, but until that moment I had completely forgotten about it. In a way, I felt like a child finding that long-lost loved toy that I had sadly given up looking for, and although I am a bit too old for it I'm still glad it was found. Honestly, I couldn’t stop talking about it! Even now I'm still trying to figure out what kid I can buy it for! It’s like the “warm-fuzzies” hit me harder for this game than many of the nostalgic products that are in my current consciousness simply because I had retrieved this lost memory of it.
Science knows that we create memories from a very early age and although we can’t always recall these memories, it doesn’t mean they aren’t assessable. Like my experience with Choco, we often need some sort of trigger. I didn’t remember the name of the game or what the box looked like, but the images of the characters inside the chocolates where what made my memory “pop.” Without the visual trigger, I might not have recalled this game at all.
In blockbuster products like Cabbage Patch Kids, Candy Land or the Fisher-Price Record Player, it’s easy to bank on the “warm-fuzzies” hitting lots of people, but not every item can bank on that kind of reception. My reaction to Choco is sure to differ from other people who had it as a child. Some might remember it, some might not and then I’m sure there are a few like me who got “MEGA warm-fuzzies,” but that varying reaction doesn’t mean it can’t be useful for sales. It was really wise of Tactic to maintain some of the imagery from the 1970s game to appeal to people who might remember it. Similarly, the adorable chocolates and cute characters can still appeal to people who have no prior experience with the product. It’s all about balance – that is until we find a way to bottle and sell these magical “MEGA warm-fuzzies”
Since my start in the toy industry was as a board game designer, I'm asked about them and have written about them often. There are many who think board games are disappearing, but as I have been writing in this space for years – they aren’t disappearing. There is resurgence; it is hard to track because they aren’t being sold in the same ways.
More people are playing games - of all types - than ever before in history. A great analogy is food. New culinary sensations have been introduced to our diets, but we still eat many of the basic items we always have, we just have a richer and more varied diet. The varied diet in this analogy includes high tech and low tech games. Sometimes you feel like a snack (app), sometimes party (party game of any kind) and sometimes a sit down dinner with your friends and/or family (a board game). It is all good!
Two articles popped up today in support. Below are interesting outtakes:
From New York Times this morning:
“While the video game business long ago eclipsed its low-tech cousin, sales of tabletop games have continued to grow. Sales at hobby stores in the United States rose 15 to 20 percent in each of the last three years, according to ICv2, a trade publication that tracks the business. Amazon says board game sales increased by a double-digit percentage from 2012 to 2013.”
“Somewhat ironically, perhaps, video game players are often among the biggest devotees of tabletop games. Some in the business believe that is no accident, theorizing that the abundance of opportunities to connect electronically with people through games and social media has also created a hunger — sated by tabletop games — for face-to-face contact.”
From TechCrunch yesterday:
“Last year there was actually more money pledged to board games than video games,” added Strickler (CEO and Co-Founder of Kickstarter). “It’s like $55 million in board games. It’s kind of counterintuitive to the way that we think the world is moving but I think the board game market on Kickstarter is very illustrative of what it is that we actually do.”
“Strickler pointed to board games as one of the community-driven enthusiast areas that the platform has been able to support — noting that as of this week Kickstarter will pass $100 million having been cumulatively pledged to board games.”
This is the Golden Age of Games!
After attending a consumer game fair in Essen, Germany attracting over 150,000 mainstream consumers – lots of families, we founded our Chicago Toy & Game Fair to promote play through media, bloggers, fashion, inventors, educators and consumers the weekend before Thanksgiving. We added toys, young inventor challenges, educator and inventor conferences, fashion show, character breakfasts/lunches, stage events, blogger breakfasts, inventor awards and other events that Essen does not have (or needs to have). We’ve become the SXSW of Play.
The Spiel des Jahres is another amazing event/award that comes from Germany. It is an award that can sell more than 500,000 additional games. A nomination alone can mean an additional 10,000 copies sold. Mainstream media reports on the winners the following day. I don’t know of an award in the States for toys or games that compares. There is something here we can learn. The Chairman of the SdJ Jury, Tom Felber, is in the States now. We have been introducing Tom around the country – LA and SF last week, Chicago and New York this week and in cities in Canada in July/August. If you want to find out a bit more about Tom and the SdJ, we have an interview, but even better, come out and meet him.
At fast-paced, frenetic bingo nights, players track multiple cards and indulge in superstitions to coax a win. The iconic game of chance originated with the 16th-century Italian game of lotto and arrived in the United States as a carnival attraction called beano. Edwin S. Lowe (who went on to publish Yahtzee) picked up on the trend and began manufacturing bingo boards in the early 1930s.
Do good-luck charms have a place at your gaming table? In her latest Play Stuff blog post, Tara Winner, The Strong's cataloger, explores the trappings, trinkets, and traditions of a popular gambling pastime.
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) grew out of the war-themed, strategy-heavy board games introduced in the 1950s by Avalon Hill, as well as from the miniature war games hobbyists enacted with figurines and battlefields crafted to scale. Television often portrays the iconic game as un-cool by putting it in the hands of nerds. But it also redeems those characters by giving viewers a chance to know and appreciate them—an opportunity people might not have in real life—and by placing the characters in circumstances where they “save the day” or change a skeptic’s mind. Read more in my latest Play Stuff blog post.
As highlighted in Euromonitor International's recent global company profile, Mattel remains the largest traditional toys and games manufacturer in the world focusing across a variety of traditional toys and games categories generating over US$10 billion in sales in 2012. The company recorded growth of 5.3% in 2012 across traditional toys and games.
Three of Mattel’s brands are in the top five in terms of global dolls and accessories brand share and the company is the largest player in this category with a 33% value share. In model vehicles, the top three brands by share globally belong to Mattel in 2012, also making it the largest player in this category with a value share exceeding 28% in 2012. In dolls and accessories, the toy maker’s main properties include the iconic Barbie brand, as well as Monster High and American Girl. In model vehicles, Mattel’s main brands consist of Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Cars.
Mattel has consolidated its 2011 acquisition of HIT Entertainment to strengthen its position in the baby and pre-school categories. The main brand to have contributed to this consolidation was Thomas and Friends, however, this still only commands a small fraction of the categories overall.
Game shows have a way of moving beyond the television screen—and I'm not talking about just shouting answers from your couch. Many popular examples have been adapted into board games, allowing you the opportunity to be a contestant in the comfort of your own home. Wheel of Fortune appeared as an at-home version in 1985 after the show had enjoyed its first 10 years of success.
Which drives the excitement of game shows and other competitions: the prizes or a spirit of playfulness? Victoria Gray, The Strong's collections researcher, explores this question in her latest Play Stuff blog post.
Originally I titled this piece “Eating My Way Through Nuremberg Toy Fair”, but it is much more than just about the wonderful food. We’ve all attended many trade shows and there are none in our industry that compare with the Nuremberg Toy Fair’s hospitable exhibitors. At times it feels and tastes like a epicurean food fair. While sipping espresso and savoring fresh parmesan and chocolate from Italy in the Modiano stand, Isabel Serpa from Modiano explained it this way, “This is a public relations fair where you can find partners. People will tell others about you and the business will come later.” For the record, I have not done business with Modiano and wasn’t talking to them about business. Within 15 minutes of chatting with Isabel, I wished I lived closer to her as I could see sharing a cup of espresso with her on a daily basis. And, I did give her card to someone later that day.
Designer Carlos Bonnet of X-Swing Europe said, “Over here we first build on our relationships with the potential buyer and much later we will actual do the business. In the Netherlands it’s called “de kat uit de boom kijken” which means in English: “To see which way the wind blows” (or something like that). If the mindset, from the potential buyer, is good and you as a person is very likeable then it’s all good and you can do business with each other.”
For those of you who do not attend the Nuremberg Fair, I thought I might share some of the tastier bits of hospitality. All the booths I visited were welcoming and all offered something to eat and/or drink, but there are standouts. One of my favorites every year is the Ravensburger booth with many selections to choose in an area that is the size of a small café. Although everything looks delicious, their Schokokuss, a chocolate-coated marshmallow treat, is something I could become diabetic over in a short period of time if they were available in the Chicago area. Please don’t tell me if they are. This treat has a very interesting history and many countries claim to have invented it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate-coated_marshmallow_treats Yes, that’s me in the pictures eating my second one with Frank Mueller, Ravensburger’s Innovation Manager. A few days later Tanya Thompson from ThinkFun and Pal Keller from Mindtwister joined me at the Ravensburger booth. Yes, competitors are treated royally as well! (Picture of Tanya and Pal at end of article.)
As I explore in Euromonitor International's new global briefing "Toys and Games in Emerging Markets: Consumer Fundamentals Falling into Place", emerging economies already account for a considerable share of the global toy market, and will provide the strongest boost to global toy and games sales between 2012 and 2017. Latin America has been one of the fastest growing toys and games market globally, while in a few short years Asia Pacific is projected to become the largest toys market, overtaking both North America and Western Europe. Hence, all major global toys manufacturers are increasingly seeking ways to enter and expand their presence in these markets. The strategies they adopt now will determine their success in coming years.
Nine of the world’s top 10 countries in terms of child population are emerging economies. However, it is the rise in disposable incomes in emerging economies that is contributing most to market size gains.
It’s New Year’s and time for resolutions. I’m not willing to give up chocolate, my energy footprint isn’t so bad, I don’t smoke, and exercise just isn’t happening. But, for me, all is not right in the world of toy. There is so much we can all do better in 2014.
5. Reinvent Action Figures
At its best, the action Figure category helps boys create imaginary adventures on their bedspreads. But boys’ play behaviors and interests have changed dramatically between the 1980s G.I. Joe hayday and today. Boys have more sport practices, art and music classes, video games, and digital devices vying for attention. The audience range for action figures has dropped from 3 to 13-years-old in the 1980s and 1990s to 3-6-years-old today. Standout action figure brands include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Playskool Heroes, which isn’t even stocked in the action figure aisle. Category sales dropped 4% between 2011 and 2012. 2013 sales will be further affected by the encroaching video game / action figure integrated play products like Disney Infinity and Skylanders.
This is a 2 Part Series. Part 2 will be published in one week on December 30.
Transmedia storytelling and multi-modal communications and entertainment really took off in 2013. No longer a sub-set of tech geeks and fringe viewers, transmedia broke records this year and has truly begun to change business and leisure as we know it. Here’s some of the top stories of 2013.
10. Multi-Screen has Gone Mainstream
It’s not just for kids anymore – so says the Broadband Technology Report – http://btreport.net/2013/02/multiscreen-goes-mainstream/ as more and more adults are getting their video fix from sources other than the TV set. About 27% of U.S. adults watch video on devices other than a TV, and more than half of that group (53%) does it on a weekly basis. That’s up from 14% daily and 37% weekly just two years ago. And the industry begins to shift to accommodate. Comcast acquires NBCUniversal from GE. Multi-screen content deals are being done with Fox, Time-Warner and others. To quote Ron Hendrickson, “multiscreen video’s not a differentiator any more. It’s a “must have” simply because everyone else has it.”
9. Forbes Wakes the Business World
While transmedia storytelling has been around for a while and some amazing productions had been developed, 2013 marked the first time that a major business publication covered the phenomena in it’s story, “Once Upon a Soda” - which details several campaigns including the Coca-Cola Happiness transmedia campaign that’s credited with raising global sales by 4%. Now that’s good business.
8. Hasbro Acquires BackFlip Studios
In a continuation of the trend of Toy Company giants realizing they need to “go digital or go home” – Hasbro acquires Colorado based BackFlip Studios - http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/08/hasbro-acquires-majority-stake-in-mobile-developer-backflip-studios/. This acquisition adds to Hasbro’s stake in the digital realm and it’s attractiveness to long term suitor Disney. While the Disney acquisition of Hasbro did not materialize, they did announce an extension of their strategic relationships.
7. And the Emmy Goes to Netflix
While Netflix failed to “sweep the Emmy’s” as many had predicted, it’s 14 nominations put the “new guy on the content block” in solid position and it cemented the importance of streaming, and alternative watching and content creation. In addition to it’s Emmy wins, Netflix predicts in it’s shareholder report, that “Over the coming decades and across the world, Internet TV will replace linear TV. Apps will replace channels, remote controls will disappear, and screens will proliferate.” http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/22/4759754/netflix-challenges-the-tv-establishment-with-emmy-wins-for-house-of
6. Twitter Courts TV
SF based and recently IPO’d Twitter pushed hard into broadcast television in 2013, establishing a broadcast marketing team and a host of mature advertising vehicles intending to bring the company profit. The new TV team, headed by 30 year television industry veteran, Fred Gravers, pushed hard to insert itself in the minds of broadcasters as the way to reach and engage audiences and we’ll expect to see more of the same in 2014. http://www.fastcompany.com/3018620/twitter-woos-tv-networks-advertisers-ipo
Stay tuned for our next exciting installtion only one week from today ;-)
Last year prior to the holidays I got a request from my sister asking me to help her decide on the right tablet for her then 11 year old son. I diligently did the research and even though I’ve been in the tech industry and an early adopter of technology all of my life – I found the task daunting. No wonder she wanted me to do this for her! There are so many options out there these days – and many round-ups of what’s available. Everything from the slightly ruggedized for small kids Nabi tablets, to the latest iPad air (which can cost up to $929) – the choices are seemingly endless especially when you consider that at some of these prices, parents are likely also considering netbooks or even full on laptops.
So what’s a parent to do – besides calling in their tech savvy sisters? We thought that exploring the process of one SF couple might help you on your own journey of deciding which technology is right for your kid.
Melissa and her husband John Lamming are SF residents with four beautiful kids, Avalon, who is 7 will be 8 on New Year’s Eve, Caspian, who is 6, Arcadia, 4 and baby Cyprian, who turned 2 on Thanksgiving day. Melissa and John had bought the three older kids Nabi tablets in the past and since the family Mac was on it’s way out – they knew they wanted each child to have her and his own tablet under the tree this year. I caught up with Melissa and John to get their take on the arduous journey of deciding which tablet for which child:
As told by Melissa and John Lamming:
It took a bit of thought, but we’ve decided what the Big Toys will be for the kids this Christmas. A couple of years ago, we got them Nabi tablets, all of which were big hits, but all of which are also now toast.
So this year, we’re getting them smart devices, and here’s how we went about it:
First, we decided what we didn’t want:
Smart devices come in a number of different sizes, and they won’t all fit our kids’ needs.
Phone-size: The kids will mostly be using these to watch shows, listen to music, play games, and take pictures, and the fact is that when it comes to screen size, bigger is pretty much always better. Phone-size devices are out.
7” tablets: 7” screens are probably about the right size for the kids to play with. 7” tablets are definitely still on the table.
8-11” tablets: While this is a bit big for their small hands, I’m not taking it off the table quite yet. Larger tablets are still in the running too.
Laptops: The two older kids have been playing with Mom’s and Dad’s laptops for well over a year now. Laptops are definitely in the running.
Larger computers: The problem with a larger, more powerful computer is that it’s not portable. The kids like to play with their toys in different rooms, and I’m hoping they get some use out of them on our holiday road trip. Towers and iMacs are out.
In prior articles I’ve written about the rise of connected and intelligent toys and that according to Global Industry Analysts, “demand for intelligent and interactive toys is expected to continue growing and fuelling the global toys and games market.” [See these articles here.] The gist of all of these articles was basically that there is a rise of a new hybrid type of toy that sits at the cross roads of traditional toys and digital games. These connected toys tap into the phenomena that tech insiders are calling “the internet of things.” For kids – these toys basically bridge the gap between their favorite play worlds – the dynamic world of digital play and the tangible world of real toys, cards and other objects.
In this “round up” I list and describe some prominent examples of connected toys/games so that you might get connected yourself to this hot new trend in gaming and play.
Skylanders and Skylanders Giants
Skylanders and it’s extension, Skylanders Giants are the original connected toy product and a billion dollar baby for parent company, Activision-Blizzard. The world, which now includes six plus games and apps, continues to expand with Skylanders Swappables – and one site tracking the number of action figures for sale (some are variations of the same character) shows 218 available. The action figures themselves are incorporated into the game play and can hold saved game states and unlock powers, secrets and other items.
Disney Infinity, in development since 2010 and reportedly at a development price exceeding $100M, was released this summer in time for back to school on console systems including Xbox, Wii and Playstation. A PC based game is still rumored to be coming soon. Disney has released several of the proposed starter kits and each character can be played in Play Set or Toy Box mode. Play Set mode allows characters to play and interact into their own story base (Jack Sparrow can only play in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Sully only in Monsters Inc.). Toy Box mode allows players to interact with all their characters and create their won adventures with whatever Disney/Pixar characters that want at the same time.
Launched in summer of 2012, Mattels’ foray into connected toys brough it’s own powerhouse brands into the connected toy space including Monsters High and Hot Wheels, as well as some of the top tablet/phone games including Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Fruit Ninja. The reviews have been lackluster and rumors abound that the line is being closed down, but the promise of the Skylanders magic suggests that Mattel will not give up on this endeavor any time soon.
Following its launch in October, Grand Theft Auto V (GTA) has become the fastest selling game of all time, breaking all UK records according to MCV Magazine, giving static video console games a much-needed boost. Overall video game sales have been in steady decline since 2009, due mainly to the end of console product lifecycles as well as the more evident shift from packaged software and hardware to digital gaming. However, GTA V’s phenomenal sales performance could be seen as evidence that there might still be life left in the market for blockbuster console titles. With the greatly anticipated new generation consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4 just about to hit the shelves and the ever rising popularity of digital gaming, there has never been a more interesting time to look into the category in the UK in more detail.
Video games put in a poorer performance in 2012 than in 2011 in the UK, declining by 13% in value terms. Games for hand-held video game consoles, static video game consoles and games for PCs/MACs all contributed to the decline, slumping by 50%, 31% and 26%, respectively, in 2012. The much-anticipated Nintendo Wii U launch in static video games consoles failed to revitalise overall sales as consumers awaited the next generation, with the category acknowledging the full impact of the end of its lifecycle. With more consumers utilising their iPads or iPhones and smartphones for gaming, hand-held devices took the worst hit.
Game developers are increasingly designing games for mobiles and tablets as opposed to consoles, and this trend is set to continue over the long term. As more consumers prefer a choice of where to do their gaming, either during transit, on holiday or waiting in the queue of a grocery store, gaming is starting to take place at any location. Due to this versatility, game developers are taking advantage of the trend. Tablets are also now being designed with the ability to be connected to the television, giving gamers the option of playing games on an even bigger screen.
In 2012, digital gaming was the only category in video games to record a positive performance in the UK, with mobile games posting the strongest growth of 46% in value terms. The rising penetration of smartphones and tablets, as well as an improved gaming experience on these devices, has made digital gaming the rising star of toys and games in recent years, with the category recording a 35% CAGR over 2007-2012 to outperform all other categories by a large margin.
"It’s not marketing, it’s magic. You have to see it to believe it," I said, before delivering an unquestionable truth. "The best way to sell a great toy is to put it into a kid's hands and let him play."
Unfortunately, my pitch didn't hit home for my counterpart. It wasn't that this high-level marketer at a major toy manufacturer disagreed (except perhaps with the assessment that his employer manufactured "great toys,” his unexcitable demeanor implied). No, he agreed that putting toys into kids hands was the single, absolute, unconditional best way to achieve purchase. It's just, sadly, this was not a tactic he or his company would be using for customer acquisition. His company declined to support the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, not because of some disagreement of merit, cost, or capability, but because his company had institutionalized high spending for faceless marketing and advertising efforts with a buffer between toymaker and customer.
With the rise of screens in even the littlest of children’s lives – many people have begun to consider what impact screen based reading will have on developing brains. And we ask ourselves too - what impact will this all have on the makers of books?
“Reading has changed,” said Etienne Mineur, who is the founder of Incandescence, a publishing house in Switzerland that specializes in themes related to new technologies and experimental art. “We are reading more on TV screens, on mobile phones, on video games, as well as on paper.” Due to the shift in how and where and when we read, Etienne and his teams are now focusing on connecting reading with toys, cards, and other tangible objects.
“With my studio, we are inventing, designing and developing new games, toys and books, focusing on the relationship between the tangible and digital” continued Etienne. “We don't espouse the digital versus the tangible, but instead try to find new creative way to improve digital experiences with tangible media.”