The Two Fundamental Features Of Successful Tech Toys

The Two Fundamental Features Of Successful Tech Toys

Every year we see a flood of new tech driven toys come onto the market. These products are not cheap to develop – versus a basic mechanical or static toy, tech toys featuring electronics are often much more costly & risky to launch.

Commercially speaking, the key success factor in the first instance for toys featuring technology is usually the same as it always has been – that classic TV advertisable feature. Something that looks ‘Wow’ in a quick 30 or 20 second TV commercial, or YouTube video. Children are really impacted by and attracted to a highly impactful ‘WOW’ feature, and technology can help to build a compelling offer in this regard.

That can help to both sell in and sell out of retail enough stock to justify the development and launch marketing costs for this kind of toy.

The difference though between a toy with technology inside which is a big hit versus one which recoups costs is all about the experience that the product delivers. Whether the technology is driven by electronics entirely inside the toy or by additional interactive or audio-visual content via phone, tablet or computer, the key success factor is delivering a great experience where the technology has the effect of making the play experience more immersive and more compelling.

Children do not care how many patents are in a product. They don’t care if the product breaks new ground in terms of using new tech for the first time in toys. They care about whether it is fun.

Furby is a classic example of a toy bristling with technology, but it is not the technology which attracted children to Furby – it was the fact that the technology brought Furby to life, creating a seemingly real character or animal friend.

It should be obvious that technology needs to deliver an enhanced experience in toys but judging by many products out there that don’t quite get it right, somewhere between starting with a great concept and actually delivering the product and the technology within or without, the delivery of a compelling experience fades away in a world of technical complications.

Going back a few years, Skylanders was a massive success for Activision, because they managed to deliver both compelling video gameplay in conjunction with an added element (the toy) which really worked and added major value and collectability for kids.

The challenge though for Activision was that a business model which combines exceedingly high upfront development costs with high product costs is a very risky model! One bad wave which doesn’t sell can prove ruinous for this type of business model. For example, THQ the video games company were heavily hit by the failure of their uDraw product, to the tune of a $30m loss derived from this one product launch failure:

And therein lies the major challenge for this type of toy, bearing in mind how many toys don’t last beyond year one in the market, and based on the far lower costs and risks of more basic toys, committing to develop and launch a full on tech driven toy can be an existential risk for a smaller company, and should be considered very carefully. It’s critical to consider, what would the implications of a launch failure be.

On a more positive note, technology is advancing at a startling pace, and much of it has potential for inclusion in some way in toy products, in ever more accessible ways in terms of investment costs.

But whether the product is cheap or expensive to develop, the critical point is to deliver genuine WOW factor and to deliver a truly compelling experience were the tech element enhances the play process and delivers more fun, more lifelike toys and/or deeper immersion.

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