Its a big week for the UK games industry, with London Games Festival well underway, and EGX Rezzed to follow this weekend. The world of toys and games exist largely on the periphery of such events, with the occasional crossover products sneaking into the games space.
Enter: Mojo Nation, an organisation dedicated to making connections, boosting brands and opening up new opportunities for creators and innovators in the toys and games space.
Kicking off at the London Games Festival Hub in Victoria Square, the Play Innovation Summit saw a coming together of creative minds including Alex Fleetwood, CEO of Sensible Object, Valerie Vacante, founder of Collabsco, Phil Sage, senior director of iPlay at Hasbro and Silas Adekunle, CEO and co-founder of Reach Robotics.
The line-up of industry innovators discussed such topics as augmented reality, product development, marketing, start-ups, funding and more.
"The whole reason behind the summit is that innovation in the world of tech toys is an area of the industry that doesn't get talked about enough,” Nation co-founder, Billy Langsworthy tells ToyNews.
"From an outsider's point of view, toys and games can be seen as quite an old-school space or exclusively traditional, but the UK has a thriving tech toy scene that it’s important to champion. We wanted to get the start-ups out there in front of people, but also get bigger firms like Hasbro involved to talk about how they go about bringing innovation to the toy aisles.
"Silas and Alex are examples of two start-ups that are doing incredible work," enthuses Langsworthy
"Collabsco is a company all about uniting people and Valerie is a real go-to person for everything to do with tech toys. And Hasbro is such a huge firm with so many big brands that it sometimes doesn't get the credit it deserves for pushing tech in the toy space forward, so I thought it was important to get Phil along to talk about DropMix. It's also great to learn more about how the iPlay division works as well."
“The UK has so many great firms doing brilliant tech work in the toy space, it would be a shame not to champion what they are doing.”
The Summit also proved a means to further usher firms like these into the toy space, and help existing toy and game designers network with figures leading the way in tech play products.
"It came up in the Q&A, but it’s important that these firms feel a part of the wider toy industry, and feel invested in it as much as they are in the tech world," adds Langsworthy. "It’ll help the industry become a true reflection of what’s out there, and in turn make it seen as the hub of innovation which it absolutely is."
Sponsoring the event was Sanrio, who lead the charge for licensing firms to support innovation in tech and toys alike.
"Sanrio and its Little Miss Inventor character were very excited to be part of the Play Innovation Summit and have the opportunity to meet with some great designers in the tech world," commented the firm's licensing manager, Sabrina Segalov.
"We feel that Little Miss Inventor is a great role model for this innovative industry and together with the other Mr Men and Little Miss characters, is a good introduction to encouraging kids into this fast-paced and always evolving space of bringing tech into the world of play.”
When asked to a key takeaway from the talks, the standout theme is this: collaboration. Hasbro has partnered with Harmonix to produce the groundbreaking DropMix, while Sensible Object has produced outstanding work with Amazon's Alexa, bringing a whole new world of tech into the toy creation process.
["Getting toy companies, tech developers, game developers, board game designers and toy designers in the same room and fostering that creativity and collaboration is key to fostering exciting partnerships and creating brilliant new product," concludes Langsworthy.