Connected play

Richard Heayes takes a look at the wave of new products fusing digital and traditional forms of play, making a case that we shouldn’t be afraid to mix things up.
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A new smartphone has gone on sale in India for $4. Yes that isn’t a typo.

These devices will connect a whole generation of Indian families who do not own an internet connected device.

In the West, we’ve gradually migrated to these devices over the last 20 years, so we don’t notice the profound impact they’ve had on us.

Nowadays, babies and children can enjoy nursery gadgets, interactive tablet stories and can play with plenty of smartphones often lying around the house.

It transforms how kids see the world and their place in it. It is also transforming their playtime faster than we like to admit.

Many parents are trying to fight back with digital downtime and more ‘family time’. Finding this time is becoming increasingly difficult, considering the world of tech is bringing in heavy artillery with VR and even more connected and immersive worlds.

As the offline and online worlds continue to fuse together, it is forcing any company making physical consumer products to re-evaluate what they are doing and how to tune their offering.

99 per cent of toys and tabletop games are entirely offline, although every year we see new ways to try and merge these worlds together.

We all know that there have been some bumps in the road over the last five years, but that should not taint our view of fusion products. Judge each one on its individual experience and benefits.

I’ve spent many hours developing products that ‘fuse’. These concepts should always try to be ‘1+1=3’, but often we see ones that are ‘1+1=0’. It’s all about keeping it simple. The best examples solve pain points and add extra play value.

Cartamundi’s Shuffle range adds new fusion gameplay. Sphero’s BB-8 uses the app to add character and story. And then there’s toys-to-life.

Fusion can be fun. Mixing things together leads to unique outcomes that would not otherwise have existed by themselves.

We mustn’t be afraid to mix it up, even if at first it might not seem like a good idea.

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