The Line Between Toys And Games Is Blurring Fast

At a launch for a whole bunch of toys designed to part parents from their pay packets this Christmas, I’m struck by how closely aligned the world of toys and games are. I doubt it’s a trend that’ll reverse any time soon.

I spent some time this morning looking over Hasbro’s lineup of Christmas releases, only some of which I’m allowed to talk about. Hasbro owns brands. Lots and lots and lots of brands, and if you’ve got kids or know kids or ever were a kid (which should be all of us, cyborgs notwithstanding), you’ve probably played with or been obsessed with a brand that Hasbro owns over the years. Brands like Nerf. Or My Little Pony. Or Transformers.

Metroplex is quite intimidating in the flesh.

If the presence of the kids in the room are any indication, this stuff works seriously well, too. There’s an animatronic cat that keeps getting set off during presentations that draws squeals of delight, for example. As a brief instructional lesson, it’s worth remembering that kittens really don’t like lightsabers much, but kids still like Nerf a lot.

Especially the big gun.

Regular toys aside, I’m taken by how much integration with games and gaming IP there is on show. Electronic toys are themselves nothing new, but the cross-pollination of brands and ideas is accelerating at a rapid pace. I was ostensibly there to have a little hands-on time with the Angry Birds Star Wars Telepods that were announced the other day.

Which I did — but not the app itself, which won’t see light of day until September 19th, although the Telepods figures themselves go on sale on September 1st. They’re tiny, and quite cute in person. If I’m being honest, I’d rather like a Yoda bird, although I’m not sure why.

The Telepods stuff works by throwing your bird of choice onto a small stand, and then passing that over the device’s camera, which strikes me could be interesting depending on the sensitivity of the camera involved. There was also mention made of Angry Birds Go, coming on the 16th of October. It will apparently be capable of using the same figures but within the context of a kart-style racer.

But it’s not just Angry Birds that gets gaming tie-ins. There’s app-enabled build-it-yourself Transformers Construct-Bots. There’s a weird Bop-It version of Tetris that I’m uniformly awful at. I hate being “bad” at a version of Tetris, a game I’m passionate about, although my inner pedant can calm itself by noting that it doesn’t always use proper Tetris shapes for its puzzles.

Strangest of all in this cross-branding synergy would have to be Monopoly Empire, a Monopoly version built around big-name real world brands. Intel. Samsung. McDonald’s.

Even EA and Xbox are on board, which means that rather than terriers or thimbles, you get a tiny golden Xbox controller as a play piece.

Hands up anyone who figured Xbox would only be worth $350,000? For whatever it’s worth, Coca Cola is the most “valuable” brand on the board.

There’s also, for what it’s worth, a new hugging Elmo. I know I’m meant to love Elmo, but being a man-child of the seventies, I can’t bring myself to do so; he’s the Anti-Grover to me, and always will be. I’m not the only one who sees that box and thinks that it looks like Elmo’s taken up strangling, am I?

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