Toyfair, the annual event where all the major toy companies display their products for trade buyers is coming up in February, but it is becoming clear that one major trend for 2011 will be the creation of toy brands based on popular video game/digital media brands. Companies like Sifteo and Smith & Tinker have been leaders in this area, but their products lack widespread brand awareness which makes it tough for them to connect with customers. What makes this latest crop of launches interesting is the fact that they are drafting on web hits like Angry Birds and Moshi Monsters.
Moshi Monsters Toys
Moshi Monsters is a wildly popular “virtual pet” service in the UK and is expanding into physical goods for the first time. Their range includes standard licensed fare like themed backpacks, but also some offerings that have codes that can be redeemed in the virtual world.
Angry Birds Toys
Angry Birds has become a phenomena and probably helped sell as many iPads as Apple’s expensive ad campaigns. Their virtual domination is not enough. Rovio, the parent company of Angry Birds has partnered with Mattel to release a board game version of the popular app. Part “Mousetrap” and part Jenga, the Angry Birds board game will likely be popular on school yards and in the lunch rooms of hundreds of tech startups.
Interestingly, Moshi and Rovio are both European companies. I wonder why US based Ngmoco and Zynga have not yet turned their virtual empires into cash generating tchotchkes.
Mattel Health Toys
Mattel is hedging its bets with branded and original “digitoys”. The “FunGoPlay” brand is Mattel’s attempt to turn the energy surrounding the Wii Fit, EA’s Sports Active, and the Kinect into a toy brand. These sports toys capture data about real world use and can then transfer it to a web service. Parents can now track active play time and kids can keep score in the real world.
I Can Haz Cheezeburger
Cheezeburger Inc isn’t a toy company per se, but their offerings are physical entertainment based off of digital content, in this case books and calendars created with funny crowdsourced images of cats. The company has grown a huge audience and recently raised $30MM from prominent investors.
For the last ten years physical products companies have made web presences for their brands to advertise and build an audience for their wares. It is exciting to see the roles reversed now where popular websites/games are creating physical souvenirs for their audiences.