For the time being–or until there’s another recall, I’m pretty talked out on the safety issue as the overriding trend in toyland. So I thought it would be a welcomed changed of pace to discuss the more light-hearted trends we had intended on publishing in our book before we were forced to cancel the publication. The first is WEBKINZ-Connection and Collecting.
If you know a school-aged child well, you’ve probably heard about this on-line gaming phenomenon that has the whole toy industry playing catch up. Webkinz live in both the real world (stuffed animals) and in cyberspace (the stuffed animal gives you a code enabling on-line player). Players take care of their Webkinz and play arcade games. From our testers’ point of view, there is always something new to buy on the site for their pet or their room. The experience is the high-tech blend of Beanie Babies, Tamagotchis, NeoPets, and on-line shopping. Everyone wants to be the next Webkinz; even Barbie now is focusing on her on-line persona. More sites will follow. And why not? For the toymakers this is a new way of generation sales. Like toy-driven cartoons on TV, these toy-driven internet sites play on connecting, collecting, and consuming. In truth, they are long-playing commercials. While some of the games are free without a buy in toy, players will often discover that in order to access certain rooms, or in the case of Barbie certain hair styles, you do need to pay.