Sales of Physical Toys Impacted by Rise of Tablets and Apps

Jim Silver, editor in chief of, estimates that more than 90 percent of the “so-called app toys that were trotted out last year sold poorly,” reports the Wall Street Journal. But toy companies are still trying to make it work, begging the question: “why have a hybrid, combining some aspect of a tablet with an actual physical toy or game, when a tablet alone will do?”

The article cites failed attempts including Hasbro’s iPad-enhanced version of its “Game of Life” and Mattel’s efforts to outfit Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars with conductors that control tablet games.

“Kids looked at these plastic toys used to run digital games and said, ‘Why bother when I can just use my thumbs?'” said Silver.

Sean McGowan, an analyst at Needham & Co., suggests the approach may be too high-concept for kids. “I don’t think children play with toys and look at a screen at the same time,” he said.

However, the industry continues to move forward with the hybrid concept, as evidenced by new toys and apps demonstrated at January’s CES in Las Vegas and this month’s International Toy Fair in New York. For example, the Jakks DreamPlay line (pictured) features a tablet app that interacts with plastic toys to generate animated video content.

“Those who have not seen the full ecosystem of this technology cannot fully grasp or appreciate how revolutionary the experience is,” said Stephen Berman, CEO of Jakks, noting his company’s exclusive licensing partnership with Disney. “Toys and technology have to change to the way kids play today.”

As the amount of time children spend with screens increases, physical toy sales drop and sales of tablets and educational videogames become industry bestsellers.

“Overall toy sales including electronics have remained relatively steady at around $17 billion according to market researcher NPD Group,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “But traditional toys such as board games and baby dolls have lost market share in the U.S., where consumers are spending 30 percent less on them than they did in 1998 according to research firm Euromonitor International.”

“Meanwhile tablets and educational videogames from companies such as LeapFrog Enterprises have become some of the industry’s biggest sellers, accounting for four of the top 10 toys sold last Christmas, NPD says.”

No Comments Yet

You can be the first to comment!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.