'Toy companies shouldn't fear technology'

Firms should embrace new technologies, say Michael Acton Smith and Fiona Wright.
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The growth of children’s tablets is undeniable, apps are increasingly claiming kids’ attention, and the Skylanders craze is spawning new launches from major entertainment brands. 

But traditional toy firms shouldn’t fear new technology, say experts. Rather, they should wise up and learn how to combine traditional toys with emerging platforms.

In the same month Mind Candy’s CEO Michael Acton Smith (pictured, left) has told ToyNews its follow-up to Moshi Monsters will launch on tablets before toys, LEGO’s UK boss claims traditional toy firms have nothing to fear from new technology.

Speaking to ToyNews, Acton Smith said: “We’ve got multiple new brands progressing. They will be about family entertainment and start on tablets.

“If it’s successful on tablets, then we will make the bigger bounce into toys, cartoons, films and everything else. [Tablets and smartphones] are where children are spending time, so that’s where we’ve got to go.”

Meanwhile, LEGO’s UK and Ireland general manager Fiona Wright (pictured, right) recognises the impact new technology is having on the toy sector.

“We will continue to innovate in order to offer our customers alternative ways in which to play LEGO,” she said. “Our construction sets will always remain a toybox staple but LEGO video games are among the best-selling kids’ video games. 

“I do not believe the construction category faces any different challenges to that of the total toy industry. Namely, the continual poor economic climate and the increasing impact technology is having on the spending and playing pattern of our shoppers and consumers.”

Over the past five years since 2008, LEGO’s business has grown by 185 per cent. Meanwhile, Moshi Monsters is the number one toy property in terms of value according to 2013 NPD data.

Experts believe it’s important to consider the value of both traditional and tech-focused toys.

Industry consultant Steve Reece offered: “It’s very easy to forget that the vast majority of toy sales come from categories and functionalities that have been around for decades.”

Ian Douthwaite, CEO of youth research agency and games development studio, Dubit, added: “Toy companies shouldn’t be afraid of digital, but recognise it as an opportunity.

“Kids are digital natives, they don’t see the lines between digital and physical, and because of this they expect their favourite brands to be cross-platform.”

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THE BIG INTERVIEW: Michael Acton Smith, CEO, Mind Candy

Michael Acton Smith is the founder of top licensed toy property Moshi Monsters, but he’s not content with just one brand. In this exclusive interview, he explains to Dominic Sacco about choosing tablets over toys, eclipsing Star Wars and the unstoppable growth of his company Mind Candy.

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