Having found this holiday season that they cannot beat Apple Inc’s iPad, iPhone and iPod, toymakers have lined up a host of playthings that come to life when hooked up to the devices, gadgets that kids love to play with.
Industry insiders call them “Appcessories,” and expect a wide array of these items to be on display at the American Toy Fair, which officially opens to the public in New York today.
“The manufacturers have realized this is a hot area, and they are all jumping on it,” said TimetoPlayMag.com editor-in-chief Jim Silver. “It is an opportunity to extend the ages you are selling to.”
The trend comes as companies, scarred by a holiday season when toy sales fell 3 percent in the US, look beyond traditional toys to woo tech-savvy kids, many of whom have grown up playing on their parents’ smartphones or their own gaming consoles.
“Today’s gamer is looking for experiences in games that include the marriage of digital and analog, face-to-face, and off the board gaming,” Hasbro Inc chief executive Brian Goldner said.
Hasbro, the maker of G.I. Joe toys and the Monopoly board game, plans to jump on the Appcessory bandwagon through its zAPPed gaming platform.
When you play with Hasbro’s The Game of Life zAPPed, you will still move your car from space to space and select your path to retirement on a game board, but now you spin, get paid, sue other players and make important decisions on your iPad, after downloading a free app. The game will cost about US$25.
However, Hasbro is not the only firm to have entered this arena.
Canada’s Spin Master Ltd is betting big on an array of accessories for Apple products as well as devices running Goolge Inc’s Android operating system under the AppFinity label.
“When you talk about the holy grail of toys, manufacturers have been trying to find a way to marry the tech and the toy world,” Spin Master spokesperson Harold Chizick said, adding that Appcessories might just be what they were looking for.
Spin Master hopes its AppDrive will appeal to racing enthusiasts by allowing them to use a steering wheel that can hold an iPhone, and play racing games using an app on the iPhone, while AppFishing will enhance “virtual fishing” using a rod that can hold an iPhone. Priced at US$20 each, they will hit stores in the fall.
Industry heavyweight Mattel Inc will try to broaden the appeal of its classic brands such as Fisher-Price Inc and Barbie, as well as Monster High through its Apptivity line.
One product in this line is Fisher Price’s Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case, which is basically a US$20 sturdy case that will protect parents’ iPhones from “dribbles, drool and unwanted call-making.”
The item, which features beads, a mirror and free learning apps, will help babies practice hand-eye coordination, Mattel says.
Toymaker WowWee Group Ltd, known for its little robot toys, will unveil its AppGear line, which combines physical toys with iOS and Android apps. For example, in Alien Jailbreak, which is an augmented reality shooter game, the player looks through his or her smartphone and tries to stop aliens from escaping from prison. AppGear products will be sold at about US$10 to US$20.
Companies such as Discovery Bay Games and Crayola LLC also hope to offer compelling products in this category.
Rising teen cellphone ownership, growing demand for mobile computing devices such as tablets, and the explosive demand for mobile apps are other factors boosting the trend.
As of September 2009, 75 percent of US teens aged 12 to 17 had a cellphone, a number that has steadily increased from 45 percent in November 2004, a study by Pew Research Center showed.
“Until now, traditional retailers or brick-and-mortars have been unable to tap into this huge growing market. They’ve been left out of the app party,” said Mike Gonzales, creative director and digital brand manager for WowWee.
Like many others, Gonzales now sees “an opportunity to take a bite out of the app pie.”
At an event earlier this week, Toys“R”Us CEO Jerry Storch summed up the trend: “The combination of the physical world and virtual world is so powerful that it’s almost unexplainable.”
One of Storch’s favorites heading into the year is the followup to Activision’s Skylanders, a video game that comes with physical toys that spring to life on screen when they are hooked up to consoles such as Microsoft Corp’s Xbox or Sony Corp’s PlayStation. A chip inside the figurines stores a player’s progress in the game.
The latest iteration, called Skylanders Giants, will feature characters that are taller and have new kinds of power. The newer characters can also light up without needing batteries.
“Skylanders will be even larger in its second year than its first year. It could be one of the biggest toy franchises of all time,” Storch said.
While the toy industry is betting big on Appcessories, a few parents are skeptical.
Amanda Bergman, a New Jersey-based Web editor and mom of two, said she would “probably not” buy toys and games that will come to life with a tablet or smartphone.
“Sounds like kind of a hassle, to be honest. I’d prefer to maintain the separation between toys and iPad. And I feel like the novelty would wear off quickly,” said Bergman, who normally lets her children, three-year-old Elliott and five-year-old Adrian, spend one to two hours on average on her iPad.
DEVELOPING TALENT: The electronics contractor is looking to recruit people to work in core tech fields and emerging industries like electric cars and robotics Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, has launched a recruitment drive, offering a monthly salary of no less than NT$45,000 (US$1,485) to university graduates. For those with a master’s degree, the starting pay would be NT$52,000 per month at the minimum, while doctorate degree holders would receive at least NT$60,000 a month, Hon Hai said a statement issued early this week. The latest recruitment drive is aimed at attracting talent in core technology fields — artificial intelligence, semiconductors and next-generation mobile communications — and emerging industries — electric vehicles, digital healthcare and robotics, the
MRT TRAVEL FALLS: In February, ridership on the Taipei MRT System fell 8.96 percent from an average of 2.01 million per day in January Scooter sales jumped 13 percent last month as more commuters turned to two-wheelers to avoid public transportation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest statistics showed. Sales expanded to 74,493 units last month, compared with 65,913 units in February, statistics released on Wednesday by Kwang Yang Motor Co (光陽工業) and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications showed. In the first quarter, aggregate sales slid 0.51 percent year-over-year to 186,627 units, from 187,580 units, data showed. Kwang Yang, the nation’s biggest scooter manufacturer, continued to lead the market by selling 24,136 vehicles last month, growing 6.12 percent from 20,785 units in the previous month, while
Asustek Computer Inc (華碩), the nation’s leading PC vendor, yesterday launched its first dual-screen gaming laptop powered by Intel Corp’s latest central processing units (CPUs). The PC manufacturer’s announcement closely followed the US chipmaker’s unveiling of its 10th Generation Core H-series, the fastest commercial mobile processors with speeds of up to 5 gigahertz. Although Asustek’s Zephyrus Duo 15, the highlight of its Republic of Gamers line, is not the company’s first laptop with two screens, it is its first designed specifically for gaming. Nestled between the primary display panel and the keyboard, the secondary display, which Asustek calls the ScreenPad Plus, is angled
NO ILL EFFECT: Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the spread of COVID-19 was still relatively mild in Taiwan, housing brokers said Housing transactions in the six special municipalities totaled 19,824 units last month, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier, brokers said, citing government data. Last month’s data mainly reflected deals made in February, when the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic was not yet evident, they said. Taoyuan posted the largest improvement, with housing transactions soaring 36.6 percent year-on-year to 3,676 units, local government data showed. Taiwan Realty Co (台灣房屋) attributed the pickup to the completion of two presale residential projects in the municipality. Houses in Taoyuan have increasingly gained in popularity in the past few year years due to relatively affordable home prices and