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Brief Published: 20 Feb 2015

Toy Fair NY15: Digital Play Gets Physical Upgrade

Recognising that young kids increasingly play seamlessly between online and offline worlds, a host of major toy and game manufacturers at this year’s Toy Fair in New York (February 14-17) presented digital games that are augmented with physical toys.

  • Sick Bricks by Canadian toy manufacturer Spin Master is a free mobile game with additional characters available for purchase in the form of small figurines made from swappable plastic bricks. The characters become playable when scanned with a phone or tablet, while consumers can unlock further characters by interchanging pieces between toys. Further leveraging the brand’s transmedia approach to play, the Sick Bricks character profiles will be airing on US-based TV channel Cartoon Network this spring in a series of animated shorts.
  • Launched last June, Danish toy brick brand Lego showcased its Fusion line of play sets, which use augmented reality to bridge physical connection with mobile gameplay. Kids add buildings to the digital game by designing structures with plastic bricks, and then scanning them with the camera on their device. The Toy Industry of America, which hosts the Toy Fair, awarded Lego Fusion the Toy of the Year Award for the E-Connected Category of the show.
  • Among video-game makers, Japanese brand Nintendo launched Amiibo in November – a line of figurines of well-known game characters that are embedded with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. When a figurine is placed on the console’s chip reader, it activates unique playable content, including weapons and character outfits.

    Other video-game publishers have similarly released physical toys of characters that activate in-game content when scanned by RFID chips or a camera, including US-based Activision’s Skylanders and Disney Interactive’s Disney Infinity. This emerging product category, known as ‘Toys to Life’, is rapidly growing – as demonstrated by the 5.7 million sales of Amiibo figurines in just four months.

We’ve highlighted the number of companies exploring hardware/software combinations as a way of bridging the gap between traditional toys and new mobile behaviours in Digital Kids. Find out how technology is influencing play in our Gen Alpha Attitudes report and Digital Natives Seek Transmedia Play blog post. For more on interactive toys in the digital age, watch out for the report Toy Worlds: Targeting Generation ‘Me’, publishing next week.