Play Platforms from Marbles to Checker Boards; where’s the respect?

In my last article, I wrote about the large number of play platforms that the toy industry has from which to draw.  A deck of cards, a checker board or a bag of marbles contains the basis for a staggering number of games.  Why, however, are these platforms given so little respect?

In my experience, when I walk into a toy store or toy department these products are never prominently displayed.  With some effort, I can find a bag of marbles, a checker board, and a box of clay, pipe cleaners, dice or a ball located in some obscure part of the store.  The reason for this is that they are largely seen as low priced, low value commodities. 

But should toy retailers and manufacturers take some time to honor these platforms that make so many games and play patterns possible?  Why don’t we, for example, communicate that a red rubber ball is

one of the most high value products a person can buy.  Not because of the material it is made of or its size or because it can bounce so high but because it makes it possible to play so many games? 

When we fail to honor our very best we fail to honor our entire industry.  What about celebrating these play platforms by making them in higher quality versions with a website that communicates the games that can be played?  And while we’re at it, why not make these websites communities where young and old can share the many ways they use them?

What do you think?   

3 thoughts

  1. Thanks for bringing up the red rubber ball. I just lost my father & forgot about a game we played-even through high school. It was simple, you hide the rubber ball in another’s shoes, clothing, etc. to see how long it took them to discover it. One of my fondest memories is hiding it my Dad’s suit breast pocket & he never noticed. What a laugh we had-thank you Richard for reminding me of a good memory.
    Our generation really needs to re-introduce children to the joys simpler forms of play using imagination.

  2. Dear Richard:
    From my experience, it is the retailer and the consumer that are viewing these products as commodities and not worthy of proper placement or appreciation. A few years ago, I helped to introduce a wonderful line of classic games to the US specialty market with the WWF license as a brand / image. Each product: chess, checkers, Ludo (Parcheesi if you are Hssbro), etc. was made of FSC wood and FSC Card stock when appropriate. In addition to providing the expected game play, the products introduced consumers to endangered animal habitat around the globe along with the specific animals threatened by extinction. Lastly, each product was beautifully designed with designs representing the threatened animals.These products didn’t sell well at all — particularly if they were shown next to the more commodity oriented products with which they competed. It just became a matter of price / value. We were given little credit for using recycled materials and properly managed forestry wood. Our prices were higher and thus not competitive.
    Obviously, this doesn’t disprove the case — there may have been other shortcomings to the products or the price differences just may have been too much for the average Specialty Toy consumer. But I won’t try and market a basic game again without a significant twist on the game play or positioning.

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