The Rise of Touch Screen Play; It Only Took Four Years

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In my last posting, “Tablet vs. Toy; the fight for play time,” I provided a graph created by the Michael Cohen Group that measured frequency of play for traditional toys and touch pads.  As one glance at the graph shows:  Touch Screen wins.

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I think the most troubling aspect of this graph for traditional toy providers is that it all happened so fast.  The iPad, for all extents and purposes the first modern tablet, was introduced in January of 2010.  That means that touch pads went from being non-existent to the most frequently used play platform in four years.

And let me point out that Touch Screens have just slightly more use than the second most frequent category, “Dolls & Action Figures.”  Think about it, that is a combination of the two of the most popular play patterns (doll play and action figure play) and together they are still as not frequently used as touch screens.

So, what should we take away from this graph?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. The rise of touch screens happened in four years.  I don’t think gate keepers have quite figured out yet that their children are spending less time playing with traditional toys.  At some point, they are going to “get it” and that could well lead to a decrease in traditional toy purchases.
  2. Those who ignore this rise in non-traditional play are going to put their businesses at risk.  I am not saying that they have to adapt digital play but that they have to become keenly aware of all the players, hard ware and software, in the category so they know where the threats and opportunities are.
  3. Children still do play with traditional toys and they appear to enjoy interactive physical play.  “Construction and Blocks” as well as “Arts and Crafts” still engage children so there is certainly still a love of hands on play.
  4. Anything that comes that fast can go that fast…except I don’t think that is going to happen.  Rather, Touch Screens like their cousin the Game Console can in turn be run over by the next big thing.   

Those traditional toy companies who fully understand Touch Screen play; its technology; its business model and its attraction are going to be the winners.  Those who ignore it?  Not so good.

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