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.
Hasbro Telepods – Angry Birds Star Wars and Furby Boom
Hasbro has launched into the connected toy space with two solid offerings that have already helped Hasbro raise it’s stock price and expect solid earnings for the 2013 holiday shopping season. Hasbro’s Telepods for the Angry Birds Star Wars franchise have reportedly already sold over I million figures and with a much lower tech approach than either Skylanders of Disney – using basic QR codes associated with the iPads camera. This product has seen such success already that Rovio, parent company of Angry Birds, is already incorporating this feature set into a new version called Angry Birds Go. As for Furby – which like Spyro the Dragon which gave birth to the Skylanders world – was originally launched in 1998 – and has seen several revivals over the years. The latest rebirth is birth itself with Furby now being able to have babies via its connected tablet app.
Lego Life of George
Lego’s Life of George set combines the legendary Lego building mentality to the connected toy space by letting your little builder enter pictures of her creations into a tablet or a phone device for extended play and games. Breaking one of my personal rules for a successful connected toy/game experience – the digital game doesn’t work at all without the toy, but it does do a decent job of telling George’s story and serves as a new user flow for driving kids to the toy.
Nuko Toys has iOS games and apps that are enhanced by collectible trading cards – a kind of mashup between iPad games and Pokeman collecting. Their top two titles are Monsterology and Animal Planet Wildlands.
Pokeman Scramble U
Pokémon Scramble U is a 2013 Pokémon game available for the Wii. It is the successor to the 2011 3DS game Pokémon Rumble Blast. It features all Pokémon from the first five generations. Up to 100 Pokémon and 4 players will be able to play at the same time. It is the first Wii U game to utilize the Wii U GamePad's NFC function and the toys cost about $5. It was released in Japan on April 2013 and in Europe and in North America in August 2013.
This little ball is controlled using an app. It comes with two ramps so you can make it fly off into space (kind of). Sphero 2.0 has a top speed of 7 feet per second and connects with your device via Bluetooth with a range of up to 100 feet. It has multicolor LEDs that makes the ball more interesting, and more visible at night. You can also purchase a Nubby cover, a rubber protector, for off-road fun.
reaDIYmates are do-it-yourself web connected objects that react to a person’s digital life. You can set the paper toy to move and play music when you receive notifications from social media outlets, or even use your smartphone to make it move or play songs. The paper toy is highly customizable and hackable, so you can really get creative. reaDIYmate has two components: the animated body, which contains a mini servo motor and a speaker housed in a strong, high-quality paper, and the computer brain, which includes the MP3 decoder, 2GB SD storage and a Wi-Fi chip, all enclosed in a plastic box featuring a cool arcade push-button.
MYO – for the big kid in your life – is an armband that measures the electrical activities in a person’s muscles so you can interact with computers or gadgets seamlessly. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy to communicate with paired devices, and is compatible with Mac and Windows. MYO will soon have an API for Android and iOS. You can pre-order the device now for $149, but you won’t get it until 2014.
Some coming soon products we’re keeping our eyes on!
Major League Wizardry
 http://www.globaltoynews.com/2013/09/the-rise-of-interactive-and-integrated-toys.html, http://www.globaltoynews.com/2013/08/making-the-old-new-again-reviving-content-with-transmedia-techniques-and-connected-toys.html, http://www.globaltoynews.com/2013/07/crisisopportunity-in-the-games-and-toy-businesses-.html)