There are real game classics like Uno or new developments like Fidget Spinner. Even market researchers hardly know how and why a product becomes a child’s favorite. But a few social megatrends are also reflected in new toys. In an interview with ntv.de, market researcher Axel Dammler explains what will be the trend in the coming months.
To what extent are gaming trends changing?
Axel Daimler: The basic play needs of children do not change and therefore the choice of toys remains quite the same. There are construction games, role-playing, and movement games and there are still dolls, Lego bricks, small cars, and handicraft products. The wheel is not being reinvented, but rather evolution is taking place.
What is this evolution aimed at?
Evolution is clearly driven by technical progress. If a certain technology suddenly becomes significantly cheaper, it appears relatively strongly at the International Toy Fair. That was the case with the toy drones, for example. Another example is sensors that recognize movements, sounds, and colors. They are in small robots, for example. A third example is learning toys with voice recording. Baby dolls have always been around, but now there are various technologies inside.
Doesn’t that sometimes pose a danger? Some time ago there was a Mattel Barbie doll that was connected to the Internet and listened in on conversations.
This Mattel doll was connected to the internet and caused a big scandal. The parents were quite alert. In this case, there was even a technical setback, because they didn’t want to have something like that in the children’s room. Now they are developing systems that work offline.
In many areas, the issue of sustainability plays a major role. Does this development also exist in the games industry?
Yes, sustainability is a huge trend. There have been toys made of particularly sustainable materials like wood or bamboo for many years, but in most cases, they were far too expensive and didn’t stand a chance in the mass market. The industry is rethinking this. The companies are working on the durability of the products, on new materials and on reducing packaging waste. In most cases, the consumer is not yet ready. They think sustainability is good, but they don’t want to spend more money on another toy. When buying a toy, they also want the gift to look great, and some plastic boxes look better than cardboard boxes. That’s why we find sustainable behavior difficult.
How else do the toy trends come about?
If I knew that myself, I’d live in the South Seas. There is no golden key to success there. You often wonder what sense a certain product makes. For example, there’s L.O.L. Suprise. It’s a pink egg with a figure in it. It’s full of plastic, it produces a lot of packaging waste and it’s expensive. Plus it has minimal play value. Another example is Fidget Spinner. However, the success, in this case, lasted only a few months and even then nobody could have predicted that this product would work. These are things that simply happen in the schoolyard. It’s very difficult to create such hype.
And what makes the real classics like Lego?
With brands like Lego and Playmobil, there is a reason why they have been successful for so long. They simply have a product formula that fits. It’s the right play function and the right product design. Of course, there is also a lot of marketing behind it. But even these companies are always forced to add something.
A few years ago there was a big gender debate about toys. Has anything changed there?
There are many parents who do not like this strict gender division and pay attention to it also with the clothing. But in kindergarten, the children want to adapt to their groups. They look at the code that determines a group and even a certain toy can be a code. This sometimes leads to the purchase of stereotypical products, colours, and patterns. Even if the parents want to prevent it, the pressure from the children is often too much. Because the children want to feel that they belong to their friends and their group. We see a change, but only slowly. One has to reproach industry and trade for making it easy for themselves and for example for resorting to stereotypical color codes.
How does the board game stand in times of digitalization?
We, humans, are social beings and are happy when we can interact with other people. This is exactly what makes these board games so special. We then have a common theme that we can deal with and share. Such a game is a lubricant of social interaction, so to speak.
Which games do you think will prevail in the near future?
One mega-trend is licensed toys based on series, films, and television. There are “Star Wars” or “Dragons”, for example. All of this is based on media and also drives the market strongly. The dependence on such topics is growing. There will also be a creeping change in the materials. Because a link between the versatile plastic and wood is still missing.