Article written with reporting from Kimberly Lew and Lorraine Shanley.
Books and toys often present licensing opportunities for the author or brand, but this year’s Toy Fair further proved how closely these industries are linked when it comes to selling to parents and children. This was also the first year that Toy Fair partnered with BEA to cross-promote the conferences to their respective trade attendees, and with more toys popping up in bookshops and special sales opportunities for publishers, this symbiotic relationship is only strengthening.
Digital Kids Conference, an Engage Digital event co-located with Toy Fair, on February 18-19 also echoed many of the themes at the Launch Kids/DBW Conference in January. As with Launch Kids, a primary concern in the industry is reaching children in a way that is COPPA compliant while still profitable, as is an emphasis on personalization and customization. Finally, both the toy and publishing industries are grappling with how to keep the physical relevant in an increasingly digital world.
Technology has brought the cost and ease of customizing to a reasonable level for many physical and digital products. 3D printing now makes it easier for smaller companies to come out with digital products that can be made physical, as Alice Taylor of Makie Lab and Antoine Vu of Potatoyz discussed at length. JibJab is another company that has been doing customization for years, starting out with adult customized ecards but now moving into the children’s space with StoryBots, a subscription play world where kids can watch videos, read books, and play games with their own faces projected onto moving avatars. The journalists on the last panel of the day, Tales from Toy Fair, urged game makers to use 3D to replace missing figures, dice, tiles, etc. When it came to what company successfully combines tech and physical toys , everyone still cited Skylanders (and by extension, Disney Infinity) as a good example of toys that kids can hold and form personal relationships with but that also have functionality and purpose within the digital space.
Second screens were also a big topic of conversation throughout the conference, with many panelists seeing a majority of kids owning their own tablets not only as a possibility, but an inevitability. After all, as Michael Cai of Interpret shared, 36% (Android) and 19% (iPad) of kids have their own tablets, and 17% named tablets their favorite gaming device, beating out other consoles like the Xbox 360 and PCs. Given those stats, there was also a lot of talk about apps. In the wrap up panel, Warren Buckleitner of Children’s Technology Review and the Dust or Magic conference, mentioned the iPad and its myriad apps as being his favorite showings from the fair, including the Furby apps. Other panelists liked the newest iteration of Monopoly, MyMonopoly, which combine physical and digitally customized components. And several people throughout the day mentioned Rainbow Loom, a game that both boys and girls can enjoy that incorporates the physical with digital to allow kids to create their own projects. Read More