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The Rise of Toy-based Games
Posted on Monday, August 11 2008 @ 12:31:21 PST

A little revolution is happening in the world of toyland. Slowly but surely, the physical act of play is becoming digitized. Due to the decrease of traditional toy sales and the meteoric rise of online games, toy makers are launching toys that are linked to online games and virtual worlds. The market for toy based games is rapidly growing, leading many companies such as Mattel and Hasbro to take notice.

            The concept is fairly simple. When a kid buys a toy, it comes with a code. That code allows the child to log into a videogame or virtual world, and then play as the toy he bought. Most charge subscriptions, but some do not, and sites are updated frequently with new mini-games and activities.

            Webkinz is one of the first brands to try this concept and is by far the most successful. Marketed towards young girls, Webkinz are cute stuffed animals that come with codes that unlock “Webkinz World”. At the website kids can play games, decorate their Webkinz’ room, or chat online with friends. It has been estimated that Ganz, the maker of Webkinz and Beanie Babies, has made over a hundred million dollars from the sale of Webkinz toys.

            Other companies have entered the market after seeing Ganz’s success. Disney has developed Disney’s Toon Town and has recently bought a competing site, Club Penguin, for 350 million dollars. (Neither Club Penguin nor Toon Town have a toy component but the sites are very similar to Webkinz.) Mattel has responded to Webkinz by creating an online world for Barbie and has developed a new toy-based game called U.B Funkeys. U.B Funkeys has similar features as Webkinz, but is aesthetically different.  Rather than plush toys, you buy colorful collectible plastic figures.

            The newest toy-based game coming to market is Freaky Creatures. Freaky Creatures is targeted towards males between 12 and 16, an age group that has not been tapped yet. The toys are collectible monsters which, like Webkinz, contain a secret code allowing the owner to play as the monster he bought. The game allows the players to chat with one another, play games, and decorate your creature’s lair. What sets this game apart from Webkinz and other toy-based games is that it also an MMO that allows you to send your monsters into battle against other players. The creatures in the game are also completely customizable. (There’s over 3.2 billion different ways to customize your creature.)

            This is only the beginning of the toy-based game craze. As the current gamer generation gets older, toy-based games will target older audiences. (I’m not saying that older people will buy toys per se, but that the business model of selling a game through another object will be used with older audiences.) Our world is slowly becoming digitized. Are you ready for what the future holds?


Here are links to my sources:

Toys with a Second Life

More Virtual Worlds: Yes, Really

Walt Disney Company Acquires Club Penguin





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