Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Has the toy industry screeched to a halt?

One of them, the appropriately named Marshmallow Fun Company, has centered its brand on the age-old taboo of playing with your food. The company has created an extensive line of plastic weaponry that uses marshmallows as ammunition. The grown-ups attending the Toy Fair couldn't seem to get enough of the firing range that had been set up, and a sizeable crowd had gathered to test the array of marshmallow guns, bows and pistols. Marshmallow Fun Company president Johny de la Valdene, a father of five, called it "paintball without the pain."

But the Marshmallow Fun Company wasn't willing to stop at a line of food-shooting guns: de la Valdene explained that the start-up has also created board games, T-shirts and comic books. And a DVD movie as well as a game for Nintendo's Wii are in the works for later in 2007. They aren't just willing to deal with the gaming juggernaut; they're working with it, too.

When asked if he thought toy companies were "losing out" to video games, de la Valdene responded that he believes "a lot are. Now kids can just sit down on the couch and use their thumbs instead of playing hide-and-seek or tag."

The hurdle, he said, is creating something so different--and not necessarily high-tech--that it convinces kids to get up off that couch. It just might work. If I were an 8-year-old in today's world, the simple prospect of being able to terrorize my friends (or even better, younger siblings) with a marshmallow gun would probably be enough to make me put down the Wiimote. For a few hours, at least.

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