Staying Relevant, Toy Makers Have an App for That
If you have a toddler and an iPad, chances are you already know what I'm going to tell you: even before a child can talk, they can operate intuitive devices like iPads, iPhones and Droids. And once they use them, they are hooked.
This isn't lost on toy makers, who are using a variety of tactics to keep kids of all ages engaged amid the increased competition for a share of kids' playtime. At the American International Toy Fair this week at the Javitz Center in New York, toy makers were rolling out their own applications, taking apps and turning them into toys, and finding other ways to build a bridge between mobile devices and toys.
One of the most direct approaches is to convert either the image or the game play of actual apps. Both Mattel and Jakks Pacific are among the companies that have taken this approach.
Mattel is planning to release a board game based on Rovio's immensely popular "Angry Birds" app this May. The board game will be called "Angry Birds Knock on Wood" and it looks the way you might imagine it would.
The pieces mimic the birds, pigs and slingshot in the game, and the object is the same: knock down the structures.
While that product mimics the actual game, there also is a line of Angry Birds plush toys, and I would suspect there will be lots of other licensed products on the way as well.
Jakks Pacific has turned another popular app, Smule's autotuning app "I Am T-Pain," into a new product, due out later this year. Jakks' $40 microphone-shaped device can record your voice and play it back with the pitch corrected or if you perfer in T-Pain's signature style.
Another approach is to incorporate mobile devices into the way the toys are operated. A good example of this is Parrot's AR Drone, a quadricopter that can be controlled by an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad.
Players use the accelerometer inside their mobile device, and tilt the device to fly physical planes either inside or outside. The toys capture video as they fly, which is shown on the screen, and since each drone runs on its own Wi-Fi network, more than one can operate at the same time.
The company also has AR.Pursuit, a two-player game that tests a player's piloting skills.
Some toy makers are also trying their hand at developing apps that they hope will become popular in their own right.