China Toy Fair


COMMENTARY: Lego Friends Video Game Appeals to Boys and Girls

Lego Friends box art.jpgRight in time for the holidays, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has released Lego Friends, a video game based on the construction toy line of the same name. While the game is all-ages-friendly, the target demographic appears to be young girls in particular: The box art features many of the characters that appear in the game—fresh-faced ladies of various hair colors, skin tones, and hobbies.

I first heard of Lego Friends, developed by TT Games and Hellbent Games for Nintendo 3DS and DS, months before, and even then I was interested in how it might differ from titles intended for more of a boys’ audience. Eventually, I got to demo it alongside Lego Marvel Super Heroes, a game that if not specifically for boys, is certainly a more testosterone-heavy affair. The art direction and color palette for Lego Friends are cuter and brighter, respectively. But do those factors alone—and that the main avatar and supporting characters are all female—qualify calling it a video game for girls? Could it still conceivably appeal to other audiences? [Read more...]

Survey Shows Children Want Game Systems, iPads for Holidays

Non-traditional items are finding their way onto children’s wish lists this year, according to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics. For the first time, iPads are among the most popular gifts for both girls and boys, with slightly higher demand among the former.

Among the other results from NRF’s 2013 Top Toys survey: 44.3 percent of holiday consumers plan to buy toys as gifts this holiday season; children are still asking for timeless items such as Barbie and dolls (No. 1 and 2 among girls, respectively) or Lego and toy cars (No. 1 and 3 among boys, respectively). And the younger generation is clearly technologically savvy, asking this year for tablets/iPads, smartphones (girls’ No. 11), and game consoles like Xbox One (boys’ No. 5) and PlayStation 4 (girls’ No. 10, boys’ No. 6).

Other popular toys for girls include Monster High Dolls, Disney Princess, and American Girl. The hot new item for boys this year is Skylanders, a hugely popular interactive video game that allows kids to play with a toy action figure at the same time. [Read more...]

Lego Marvel Super Heroes Launches with Massive Character Line-up, Lego Big Figures

Lego.MarvelLego Marvel Super Heroes has launched in North America for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and Windows PC. Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril is also now available for the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita handheld systems.

In Lego Marvel Super Heroes, players take on the role of their favorite Marvel characters, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk, as they assemble to battle some of the most menacing Marvel supervillains. More than 100 playable characters are unlockable, and players can also choose from bonus heroes, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Punisher, Squirrel Girl, and Deadpool.

Lego Marvel Super Heroes offers players a chance to show off their super skills by using weapons, such as Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer, or Hawkeye’s bow, during action sequences. Players will also be introduced to different character super abilities, such as Doctor Strange’s magic powers, Professor X or Jean Grey’s mind control, and more. Lego Marvel Super Heroes features some of the more legendary locations from the Marvel Universe, including Iron Man’s Stark Tower headquarters and the Daily Bugle. For the first time in a Lego game, players can clobber and smash bricks with super-sized Lego big figures, including Colossus, Iron Man’s Hulkbuster Armor, and the Thing.

The handheld Lego Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril offers a different gameplay experience that includes challenging time-based missions, performing combo moves, and getting assistance from your superpowered tag team partner.

Toys “R” Us 2013 Holiday Strategy Highlights Education, Tablets, and More

toysrusToys “R” Us Inc. will enhance product categories that have experienced sales growth over the past few years, such as education, tablets, and construction, as part of their 2013 holiday strategy.

This season, a dedicated Imaginarium shop will set in-store, and each store will have a whole aisle dedicated to new educational products, such as microscopes and telescopes from Edu Science and language-learning programs from Little Pim. Meanwhile, capitalizing on the growing construction category, the company will install a “Shop within a Store” in approximately 300 locations, showcasing construction brands such as Lego and Mega Bloks. The company will also feature approximately 70 Lego exclusives this holiday season, including Legends of Chima The Croc Swap Hideout and Star Wars Jedi Defender Class Cruiser.

After experiencing increases in sales of tablets and tablet accessories, Toys “R” Us will add easy-to-navigate 32-foot shops that will showcase 25 tablets that can be tested and engaged with by kids and parents. These shops are expected to set in the majority of Toys “R” Us locations by October. The company also has exclusive tablet products, such as the Kurio 10s by Techno Source and its recently announced tabeo e2, and will be launching a dedicated online tablet guide.

Finally, online shoppers can now place a “Buy Online, Pickup In Store,” order on toysrus.com and it will be ready for pickup in under an hour, and “Ship to Store” orders will now be available for pickup in five to 10 days. Later this fall, stores will be equipped with a secondary in-store pickup location, and “Ready for Pickup” emails that are sent to customers once their order is available will include a map of where the pickup location is positioned within the store.

Lego Selects Texas Instruments to Power Mindstorms

LegoMindstormsLego has selected Sitara processors and Texas Instruments (TI) connectivity and analog solutions to power the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robotics platform.

Lego’s tool kit contains hardware and software to create customizable and programmable robots, and features a programmable brick computer powered by TI’s Sitara AM1808 ARM9 processor to control the motors, monitor sensors, and run Linux. The AM1808 processor also enables interactive touch screens, high-resolution displays, fast performance, and multiple, flexible integrated connectivity options—all while maintaining low design costs and power levels.

In addition, the brick computer contains TI’s CC2560 Bluetooth connectivity solution, which allows users to control their robot with a mobile device using an iOS or Android app. Lego Mindstorms EV3 is available in retail stores, and a special version of the platform, Lego Mindstorms EV3 Education, is available for classrooms through Lego Education.

Lego Duplo Announces Play Phone Hotline for Grandparents

In honor of National Grandparents Day, Lego Duplo has launched a Play Phone Line for grandparents. Designed to be a resource that offers tips, suggestions, and inspiration to grandparents of kids ages 1 to 5, the live and free line encourages grandparents and parents to call when they’re in need of clever playtime ideas.

Whether the question is how to manage play with multiple grandchildren of different age groups, or simple ways to introduce building play for the first time, grandparents can call 1-800-835-4386 and mention “grandparents” to be connected to creative ideas and information to make playtime even more special. Other tools available include an activity guide that can be mailed or emailed to grandparents; Lego’s YouTube channel, which has a series of inspirational play videos featuring Dan Steininger, a Lego Master Builder and new grandfather; and Lego’s Facebook page. Grandparents and parents can also email their own ideas to grandparents@LEGO.com or share them on Facebook. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: Kids Getting Older Younger—Or Younger Older?

Everyone always talks about how kids are getting older younger. Kids as young as 8 years old are swapping their Barbie dolls and Transformers for iPods and tablets—but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are big kids everywhere, and toys have a funny little habit of bringing an adult’s inner-child giggling wildly to the surface.

Nostalgia is a huge trend in toys today—classic properties such as The Smurfs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pac-Man have resurfaced and are engaging a whole new generation. Traditional toys, such as Hasbro’s Easy Bake Oven, Kahootz’s Spirograph, and POOF-Slinky’s Slinky, all still appeal to young kids the same way they did decades ago. However, adults and older kids will find just as much fun in new products primarily targeted toward youngsters, too.

RainbowLoom.Butterfly Blossom braceletThis weekend, I was loomed. A family friend’s daughter, Karli, had her wrist covered in the colorful rubber bracelets that are a product of Rainbow Loom, from Choon’s Designs. A huge craze among kids, I was enamored by the bracelets and begged her to teach me how to make one. She did, and of course, hers came out better. I’ve been staring at it on my wrist every day since she made it for me, and I was extremely tempted to purchase my own loom when I went into a Michael’s craft store and saw the enormous display (but I thought to myself: “You’re 23 years old, Marissa! Taking home product samples is one thing, but you cannot justify BUYING a toy!”).

[Read more...]

COMMENTARY: It’s Not Easy Being Pink

Recently, we wrote about a petition from mom Melissa Wardy for Lego to release a set of female scientist figures. After seeing that only 16 percent (11 percent if you don’t count the Lego Friends line) of Lego minifigures are females, Wardy knew something had to be done. She learned that one of the entries in one of Lego’s public contests to design new building sets featured a female minifigure series that included a paleontologist, a robotics engineer, a geologist, an astronomer, a chemist, a judge, and a fire fighter. This entry raised the amount of votes necessary to be considered for production, so Wardy started a petition to have these females in the STEM fields available on shelves, available for all kids to play with.

With positive role models—for girls and boys—being incredibly important, especially in a time where bullying is a very present topic in the media, I think that the toy industry is beginning to shape a new generation of women by not overlooking the importance of construction sets for girls that inspire them to be more than just “pink.” Here are a few examples (including Lego Friends) of construction sets that present introduce girls to bigger opportunities.

One of the main issues many folks have with girls’ construction sets, such as the Lego Friends line, is that they are very “pink-washed.” Just because the set is designed for girls, does everything have to have a splash of pink across it? The Lego Friends line’s newest product breaks down those gender barriers and creates a play set in its girls’ line that isn’t so pink—and even includes a boy minifigure.

heartlakehighStephanie and Matthew attend Heartlake High, where they study plants under microscopes, experiment with chemical reactions, and look through an astronomy telescope in science and biology classes. Heartlake High provides a well-rounded cirriculum, with an art class and a music class as well. After school Stephanie and Matthew can play basketball with the hoop outside or go for a bike ride. The Heartlake High set includes Stephanie, Matthew, and Ms. Stevens mini-doll figures. [Read more...]

Barnes & Noble to Host Lego Architecture Studio Events

Barnes and Noble has announced that 450 Barnes & Noble stores nationwide will host their first-ever Lego Architecture Studio events and celebrations from July 25 to 28.

The Lego Architecture Studio event will feature local architecture experts discussing and demonstrating the parameters and design process in architecture using Lego bricks to educate and inspire the hands-on building that follows. Participants will have the opportunity to reference the Lego 250 guide book, experiment, and create original architectural designs with more than 1,200 monochromatic building pieces. They will also learn architectural concepts such as scale, mass and density, symmetry, modules and repetition, space and section, and surface.

Additionally, the store will offer architecture fans the first look at a new Lego Architecture product that can only be found for sale in Barnes & Noble and Lego brand outlets from July 25 to 28. The Lego Architecture Studio event is free and open to the public.

Interview with Lego President Soren Torp Laursen

The Toy Book spoke with Soren Torp Laursen, president of the Lego Group, about the state of the construction toys category and how Lego is adapting to trends.

The Toy Book: Building sets saw a 23 percent increase in sales from 2011 to 2012, according to the NPD Group. And the category is the strongest toy category right now. Why has the construction category taken off over the past couple of years?

LEGO_LogoSoren Torp Laursen: Building is the best and most versatile play experience available to children, and it is our DNA. Our single brand status has given us the focus and discipline to offer the best quality material and grow our business—and the category along with it. Our momentum has been strong over the last eight years, which furthers our ability to invest in expanding the brand to invite new users and drive continued growth. Parents and children alike recognize the lasting value and versatility of a Lego building experience, which is why we strive to meet their evolving needs with Lego solutions. We don’t see that different play patterns need to be discreet experiences, and fortunately, our brand’s versatility allows us to adapt compelling play patterns to the building sets category, such as action figures, dolls and play sets, vehicles, and gaming. By changing the way we approach what constitutes a building experience, without fundamentally changing what makes it a Lego experience, we continue to deliver relevant, yet familiar, Lego products that are driving industry growth.  

TB: What are some of the biggest trends you’ve noticed in the construction category recently?

STL: Perhaps the biggest trend in building sets at the moment is licensing, which seems to be increasing as other players seek to establish or grow their businesses. Building sets is an incredibly tough toy category to enter, establish, and sustain, therefore it is not for dabblers. Being a player requires costly complexities in molding and supply chain operations, plus research and development to be relevant and broad enough to attract a sustainable fan base, which we have found comes not only from single event-based properties, but from a wide variety of original and licensed themes that appeal to any child of any age. [Read more...]