Looking back at Toy Fair this year, what did make me chuckle was every time I saw an ‘app’ item. I wrote a long while back about kids spending pocket money – which would normally be destined for toy shops – on apps for their smart phones.
Suddenly our industry has woken up but it has left me feeling a little underwhelmed, to be honest.
Are we too late with both the add-ons and is the quality of the games too low? Our local Carphone Warehouse has a big stand with accessories to use with free apps and they can’t shift them.
At Toy Fair, when I said to someone the appeal of smartphone games was that you didn’t need to carry fishing rods or cars around to play them (and they cost under a quid), I was given a load of marketing bull which was only silenced once I demonstrated how to play the free download without the toy accessory.
As I wasn’t allowed to see the secret room on the Hasbro stand, I can’t really comment on the app-enabled Monopoly version shown there, however, when there is a very good Hasbro-endorsed app already available for less than £2, the firm can’t be looking to charge any more than £5, surely?
It’s ironic that the month ToyNews does a feature on the video games industry – something that most toy independents must have been interested in due to Skylanders – GAME Group is effectively bust. There are many reasons why, and from an indie point of view, the video games industry is screwed.
Every new release sold at cost price, then stock is marked down within a month to half the cost and publishers are so in bed with the supermarkets that when they lose interest or they are the only sales channel left, it will come back and bite the publishers so hard on bum it will hurt.
So, how are things out there from a toy indie perspective?
Pretty poor is all I hear, with footfall down dramatically. Spend in shops seems to have fallen off a cliff and internet trading also seems to have slowed for most. You always see a few silly prices after Christmas as retailers try to get rid of their mistakes, but I suppose the prize for strangest price this year is a new Subbuteo set on Amazon at £15, and that was from a marketplace seller.
However, to cheer us up, Lego still manages to buck the trend, Moshi Monsters is still flying, Sylvanian Families are doing okay, while Pillow Pals are starting to sell.
Finally, as I write this, the expected hosepipe ban has been announced. I had to laugh when a salesman from a toy company I’ve never heard of tried to sell me paddling pools on the same day. I had wondered what all the hand car wash businesses would do now – maybe he could try them?