Opinion: Is It Game Over For Toys To Life?

Last Updated on December 23, 2019 by Danielle

Are Toys To Life Dead?

With the Toys to Life category stalling, is it game over for the once popular trend?

What’s going on with the once incredibly popular trend of Toys to Life? LEGO Dimensions and Disney Infinity are MIA and Skylanders seems to be on an indefinite sabbatical. You may recall Disney Infinity dropped out of the market a while back even with the best-selling Disney Infinity franchise. Last October, TT Games announced it won’t be producing any new expansion packs for LEGO Dimensions. It seems as if the market is on shaky ground with the outlook looking rather bleak. Let’s face the truth – the Toys to Life category is presently suffering from a lack of innovation and stagnation from consumer fatigue and oversaturation and it could soon mean it’s game over.

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

Innovative Spirit Lost

Activision’s Skylanders paved the way for the success of the Toys to Life category but it seems like everyone sought to emulate the idea instead of introducing fresh, new ideas and now it is becoming a bit stale for consumers. Your typical NFC-based game features limited interactivity between the toy and gameplay. You typically unlock a character or level that is already in the game. Toy To Life developers – can’t we move beyond that level of simplicity and introduce anything new and exciting? Haven’t we milked the properties enough that we’ve practically squeezed the life out of Toys To Life? Where is that initial sense of innovation, buzz, and excitement?

Mark Gerhard, CEO and founder of PlayFusion and Chief Innovator, summed it up well in a statement: “The multi-billion dollar toys to life genre has been extremely successful with hundreds of millions of toys sold, but there hasn’t been any meaningful innovation in this category over the past six years. For the most part, the toys have just been static figurines that unlock additional video game content on consoles. New entrants all seemed to use the same blueprint, just overlaying their own IP, which led to inevitable cannibalization margin erosion and consumer fatigue.”

LEGO Dimensions

Time To Hit Reset Button

The Toys to Life market experienced massive growth but now it seems like it is past its prime and sales are nose-diving because of oversaturation and a lack of innovation in the market. It’s time to hit the reset button and rejuvenate these brands or it could be game over for this once popular category merging toys and video games. That could explain why we’re not seeing the same frequency of annual releases currently. It’s basically do-or-die time for this once popular trend.


‘Connected Play’ Emerging Threat/Opportunity

What’s emerging is a new disruptive category known as ‘Connected Play’ that seeks to shake things up and change the game. One of the first products to employ Connected Play was Lightseekers from Tomy and PlayFusion. Starlink from Ubisoft is another product that will enter the space in 2018. Other connected play experiences include board games like Beasts of Balance and Oniri Islands. So if the Toys to Life category should die off, Connected Play will be ready to pick up where it left off. Toys To Life companies could learn a few things from the emerging Connected Play market, but it still needs to differentiate its experience while keeping consumers engaged and entertained with heightened levels of interactivity.

Nintendo Amiibo

Innovation is Key to Breathing New Life into Toys To Life

At the end of the day, competition should ultimately help drive innovation and better experiences for consumers. Toys to Life must find ways to innovate while keeping costs in check in order to survive otherwise inevitably more and more consumers will lose interest and it will eventually die off. It’s not about having every character available on the market – that simply isn’t working. Surprisingly, Nintendo’s Amiibo seems to be the only strong point left in the toys to life category. Part of this may be explained by the perceived scarcity of the product and fewer quantities actually available in the market. The oversaturation of figures and add-on packs may have hurt more than helped the market. If the toy companies don’t step up their game, Toys to Life will be yesterday’s news and will be long forgotten. It’s not game over yet – it’s time to show us what you’ve got!

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