Sunday, September 28, 2008

WowWee acquires Think Tank Toys

Aug 28 2008

wow wee

Robosapien manufacturer buys New York-based company for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will introduce a range of lower-priced products to WoWee's portfolio and allow access to extra distribution channels. The firm's technological strength and operational organization will also be strengthened.

Think Tank Toys manufactures plush toys, action figures, promotional toys and a range of licensed lines including Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Mr. Men.

The company was founded in late 2006 by toy industry veteran Scott Bachrach, its president and CEO.

Article Link (Toy News)

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Is The Deal With This Stupid Lighter iPhone App?

Everyone keeps talking about Smule’s virtual lighter iPhone application called Sonic Lighter (iTunes link).
I wasn’t impressed: there are no less than ten different virtual
lighter apps in iTunes, which is what I’d call a saturated market. And
it gets better, because Sonic Lighter costs $.99. The official Zippo
iphone app is free. The basic functionality of all of these is similar
- you have a virtual lighter, you light it and when you move the iPhone
the flame moves aroun

Here’s why people are going crazy for Sonic Lighter, and are willing
to pay $.99. Smule has built in social and viral features that are
helping this spread like mad, and they also give this ridiculous but
effective incentive to use the app all the time.

can optionally share your location information with the application,
and when you light it you show up on a virtual earth-like globe. France
and Japan are going absolutely crazy with users, which you can see
quite clearly from the virtual globe and the screenshot to the right.
The longer a person keeps the lighter going (I have mine siting here
burning while I write this), the more”KiloJoules” you burn. And that
helps contribute to the geographical teams that are sprouting up and
trying to be the brightest on the globe. Oh, and you can blow on the
microphone and extinguish the flame.

Article Link

Don’t Forget Traditional Non-Tech Toys

  • Over 3 in 5 Tweens agree that toys are necessary to have fun (62%).
    When naming their favorite toys an actual brand/toy name is mentioned
    nearly two thirds of the time (67%) with Tweens are more likely than
    teens to mention a brand/toy name (74% Tweens vs. 65% Teens). When
    specific brands are looked at, the top two favorite brand mentions are
    toys with no batteries or electronic technology.

  • Probably not surprising, imagination, challenge and ease of use
    outweigh the desire for social and learning aspects of toys. For Tween
    girls it is important that toys are fun (88%), easy to use (78%), and
    makes them use their imagination (69%). For Tween boys it is
    extremely/very important that toys are fun (93%), makes them use their
    imagination (66%), and are challenging (61%).

  • Boys and girls differ in what they value in play experiences. Tween
    boys like the challenge of playing with their favorite toy (Tween boys
    21% vs. Tween girls 11%). Tween girls like the ability to play with
    their favorite toy in different ways (Tween girls 22% vs. Tween boys
    16%). When asked what they enjoyed most about playing with their
    favorite toy, the top five responses reported were fun (22%), variety
    of ways to play (22%), pretend role play (20%), creativity and
    building (16%), and imagination (13%).

What Is Creativity?

People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act, and
they typically reduce products to a single idea: This is a movie about
toys, or dinosaurs, or love, they’ll say. However, in filmmaking and
many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a
large number of people from different disciplines working effectively
together to solve a great many problems. The initial idea for the
movie—what people in the movie business call “the high concept”—is
merely one step in a long, arduous process that takes four to five

A movie contains literally tens of thousands of ideas. They’re in
the form of every sentence; in the performance of each line; in the
design of characters, sets, and backgrounds; in the locations of the
camera; in the colors, the lighting, the pacing. The director and the
other creative leaders of a production do not come up with all the
ideas on their own; rather, every single member of the 200- to
250-person production group makes suggestions. Creativity must be
present at every level of every artistic and technical part of the
organization. The leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones
that fit into a coherent whole—that support the story—which is a very
difficult task. It’s like an archaeological dig where you don’t know
what you’re looking for or whether you will even find anything. The
process is downright scary.

Article Link

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WowWee's Rovio

The Rovio is quite definitely revving up for its September 26th launch with a bunch of new promo videos from WowWee. If you weren't already intrigued by the web-controlled roving webcam, then you will be after watching this teaser: it looks like it does a pretty fab job of maneuvering while streaming video and sounds. I do wish the camera vertical angle was more adjustable though. The Rovio's out this friday for $300.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Update: Review

WowWee goes out of its way to make one thing very clear about the Rovio: "this is not a toy." That being said, it doesn't make the patrolling sentry any less fantastic, as critics over at Robots-Dreams proclaimed that it was "intuitive and a pleasure to use from the moment you first open the box." From the painless setup process to the unparalleled mobility, reviewers sounded like they were grinning from ear-to-ear during the entire writeup process. It performed its robotic sentry duties with vigor and valor, and the review crew couldn't help but note that this bugger was "positioned to be the hottest robot for the upcoming holiday season, and for a long time to come.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, September 15, 2008

High schoolers create face-tracking spiderbot

At the moment about all [the six-legged arthropod] can do is poise for attack and track faces using a built-in webcam (and what looks like proprietary face-recognition software), but the designers (high school students David Benhaim and Owen McGarry) assure us that they will be implementing the ability to walk -- and terrify your little sister -- shortly.

Article Link (Engadget)

WowWee's FlyTech Bladestar

Indoor flying toys aren't hard to come by these days, but WowWee's hoping you'll still be willing to drop a little bit of coin on indoor aerial supremacy. First introduced at CES, the $50 FlyTech Bladestar has helicopter-like blades for hovering, and built-in infrared sensors to avoid obstacles. You can control the Bladestar with the included remote, or stick it in autopilot mode to watch it avoid obstacles and even "push" it yourself by walking up to it. If it's war you're after, you can put the toy in "dogfight" mode to use the infrared signal as a weapon against an unfriendly Bladestar: three hits and you'll be testing WowWee's claims of crash-resistance. The Bladestar is available now.

Article Link (Engadget)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ypulse Guest Post: Virtual Worlds Expo Recap

I walked away from this conference with one happy realization – people in the industry are starting to get it! But what is "it"? Strategy! Thought! Depth! Meaning! Virtual Worlds are not defined solely by the gaming experience and socialization, but by the entire experience – from the minute a free user pops on the site, to the last second a paying member cancels their subscription (pray that day never comes).

Virtual World toys are getting more sophisticated (and awesome) - with Clickables “sharing & caring” play patterns; iToys’ Me2 plug-in seems to be offering kids a virtual reward for being real-world active; and Bella Sara folks really digging deep into the effective play patterns associated to trading cards & girls. Ethan Wood, Senior Industrial Manager at Mattel (working on UB Funkeys), said that toy companies need to spend time building a toy first before building a virtual world. The concept needs to have story to successfully interact with a virtual experience.

The panel, Purse Strings and Piggy Banks: Generating Revenue from Young Users, continued to talk about how important SAFETY is – not just for the user, but to secure the parents’ support. For companies catering to young users, there are only a few minutes to convince them. As PBSKids explained, “The conversation of ‘Yes, we have advertising, but if you buy subscription, you don’t have to see ads’ is long-winded and difficult to make instantly clear.” Everything (especially safety) needs to be obvious up front, and easy. As the folks from Magi Nation said, “roughly 90% of the audience won’t pay”, so you have to make your entire process as inviting as possible, “with little frustration to the user.”

Marketing and licensing still continues to be sensitive in virtual worlds, but gaining strength. Habbo, WeeWorld, and AIM spoke about sponsorships and how to use them correctly in virtual worlds. Campaigns need to have beginnings, middles and ends that organically fit within the world or the user’s experience. If a sponsorship/licensing campaign does not move seamlessly into the environment, it can offend the user and stunt the experience. Jeremy Monroe from Sulake mentioned that at Habbo “anything more than 4 weeks (for a campaign) is pushing it – both labor & engagement. You have entry levels for each level of participate: new user, long time user, part time user, evangelist user. You must make sure you have a game pattern for each to explore and enjoy.”

Article Link

Monday, September 8, 2008

Virtual world, real millions

Second Life Avatar

"To develop an MMORPG costs anywhere in the region of
$40m to $50m," he says. "If it's successful, you're going to continue
to develop content for it all through its lifetime, so some of these
games can live on for four, five, six years.

"That initial budget of $40m could end up over the life of a project approaching $80m, $90m - they're not cheap!"

It's estimated that the market is already worth more than £500m ($1bn) a year.

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) participants pay for the software plus a monthly subscription to stay in the online world. One, World of Warcraft, has more than eight million paying members who generated more than $470m last year.

Article Link (BBC)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

@ Virtual Worlds: Disney Online SVP: ‘If It Doesn’t Matter To Kids, It Just Doesn’t Matter’

The “Disney (NYSE: DIS)
difference” lies in the company’s ability to weave its deep and
familiar library of content into virtual worlds that give kids the
opportunity to participate in their own storytelling, Steve Parkis,
SVP of Disney Online, said at his closing keynote here at the Virtual
Worlds conference and expo in Los Angeles today. Over the past eight
years, Disney’s online portal has transitioned into a place where
people come to participate in a community. “It creates a place where
you never have to leave Disney.” The underlying mantra at Disney Online
is: “If it doesn’t matter to the kids, it just doesn’t matter.”

Neo-storytelling: A sense of place is important for Disney’s
online audience. “Giving you no reason or specific subject to talk
about makes it difficult to do our job,” Parkis said. “If you take that
casual game player, you mix in our ability to take you to places you’ve
never been … add to that your friends … and you end up with amazing
results… We think this is the next version of storytelling.” Parents
are getting involved too. At 8 p.m. Disney typically sees usage flip
over from kid to parent after children go to bed. The former
Atari-fanboy and now proud parent of two added: “I don’t have the time
to train for these games anymore… I stink, I just can’t train enough to
get good at these games so that’s turned me onto casual games.”

Technology: “We took technology and applied it to storytelling,”
Parkis said. “This is very exciting. This is a new way to introduce
characters.” Disney began its online pursuits with a heavy bend on
technology that outpaced its competitors and the industry norm. “Our
R&D was so far ahead of the curve that PCs are just catching up to
where we were six years ago.”

Security: For the past seven years, Disney has utilized a
technology that looks at every conversation taking place on its online
properties, but also has live human moderation 24/7/365. “We’ve
operated very, very big worlds. We’ve also moderated billions of lines
of text.”

Article Link

Fans flock to Disney's Club Penguin Times

Club Penguin

newspaper industry is constantly bewailing its need for a new economic
model, as the Internet upends the old one. Maybe it could take a page
from the Club Penguin Times.

The Club Penguin Times, after all,
is more widely read than New York's Daily News, the Chicago Tribune or
the Dallas Morning News. And it's not even 3 years old.

But this weekly "newspaper" isn't tossed onto driveways or sold at newsstands.

it's an online publication distributed to the estimated 6.7 million
monthly users of Club Penguin, a snow-covered virtual world visited by
more than 12 million kids, who adopt a colorful penguin persona and
waddle around, playing games and meeting new friends.

Though no
one would suggest that the Club Penguin Times provides Pulitzer
Prize-worthy coverage, it nonetheless attracts 30,000 daily submissions
from children, who pose questions to Dear Abby-inspired "Aunt Arctic,"
compose verse for the poetry corner, tell a joke or review a party or

Kids ages 6 to 14 generate much of the editorial
content, which is augmented by staff features such as the most recent
story about decorating on a shoestring -- "a great igloo needn't break
the bank." A full-time staff of three plus one part-timer sift through
the submissions, searching for those with the broadest appeal and
selecting the questions most frequently asked of the advice columnist.

Article Link

Penguin Paper Doing Better than Some Real World Rags

An online paper covering news in a fictitious world populated by penguins has become more widely read than New York’s Daily News, the Chicago Tribune, or the Dallas Morning News, reports the L.A. Times.

The Club Penguin Times is a weekly online-only publication
with a readership of about 6.7 million monthly users of a Disney-owned
social network and virtual, Club Penguin.

The popular site, which Disney purchased last August for a whopping
$350 million, has been visited by more than 12 million kids ages 6-14.

While the news may be based in fantasy, their model is similar to
what many real papers are using to attract more readers online,
incorporating social networking devices and encouraging interactivity.
And one of the more successful features on the site is their
user-submitted content, which includes 30,000 daily submissions from
the pre-teen demographic.

This sounds like the perfect little hot spot for advertisers, right?

Well, neither the site nor the paper have advertising, which rely
solely on a premium service subscription fees and proceeds from an
online store.

And of course the real question is whether or not these kids who
care more about igloos and ice fishing will ultimately translate over
into real-world newspaper readers interested in politics and the

Article Link

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Webcarzz Gets $4M in Series A Led by Meakem Becker

Webcarzz announced today that it had received $4 million in a Series A round of financing led by Meakem Becker Venture Capital.
There's little information on Webcarzz goals except that it will be
releasing information about its online game in the coming months and
that it has partnered with MCS Games
to "to push the envelope in Flash-based MMOs." It sounds like a mix of
casual games and MMOs, though, specifically a "casual multiplayer
online game that offers a social space in which users can engage in
play amongst others, but which does not require fixed play patterns, or
skill levels, for success." There's definitely an interest in virtual
worlds, at least as far as the general market goes. UPDATE:
A Webcarzz representative confirmed that the company is "playing in the
virtual worlds space." We'll have more details in the coming weeks.

“With over 300 million online gamers today, the time is ripe for virtual worlds and multiplayer online games,”
said Chris Bergstresser, CEO of Webcarzz. “Competitive play,
multiplayer activity, and exploration make up the foundation for
Webcarzz. Together with MCS Games, we are creating a very unique and
highly engaging online destination aimed at a very specific and
underserved market segment. With MBVC and MCS Games as our partners, we
will be able to execute on our vision and deliver a truly innovative
consumer experience.”

Article Link

Monday, September 1, 2008

American Girl

American Girl - dreams big
Most brands could only dream of having a feature movie built around
their products. But it’s a dream come true for American Girl.

Based on a doll, the film Kit Kittredge was another in a
long line of successful brand extensions launched by the powerhouse toy
brand, American Girl. American Girl had worldwide revenues of about US$
431 million in 2007. That’s a pretty healthy chunk of the US$ 6 billion
in net sales recorded by American Girl’s owner, Mattel, also the maker of the Barbie doll.

Those young girls, predominantly ages 9 through 12 and known as
“tweens,” are a desirable target for brands. American Girl targets them
efficiently and relentlessly. Statistics cited by Kellogg World,
the alumni magazine of the Kellogg School of Management, indicate
tweens spend over US$ 10 billion annually themselves, but their parents
spend over US$ 175 billion on them. The tween market is estimated to
grow as much as 15 percent per year.

Article Link