3 Reasons Entrepreneurs and Startups Are Bringing Toys Back to Life

Source | Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs and startups are always reimagining industries and changing the ways businesses operate. The industries ripest for disruption? Those that haven’t seen any significant technological or content innovation in their recent history.

With innovation tied mostly to new franchises rather than new types of toys, the toy industry is one of those industries ready for a significant upgrade. Sales have been declining in recent years due to the dominance of digital technology in everyday life. Yet the industry remains a powerhouse, with immense potential, evidenced by data from Statista, which shows that the U.S. toy market is worth $21.18 billion.


A growing movement called toys-to-life is the likely vehicle for disruption in both toys and gaming. Toys-to-life is a new genre of video games that uses physical figurines or action figures to interact within the game. A collection of brands active in this space have made toys and other objects with near-field communication (NFC) technology, which enables their use with console and mobile-gaming experiences.

Kicked off by the Activision and Toys for Bob partnership on Skylanders in 2011, the toys-to-life movement has seen rapid growth, with big names like Nintendo and LEGO jumping in.

Tech brands, then, are recognizing the potential the toy industry has and creating innovative product offerings, which may be exactly what the industry needs to resurrect previously successful franchises and increase revenue.

Jia Shen, CEO of PowerCore, a company that helps develop toys-to-life solutions, is working with toy giant Mattel and Animoca Brands to do exactly that. “We worked closely with Mattel and Animoca Brands to incorporate our toy-to-life digital activation platform into the latest version of He-Man Tappers of Grayskull,” Shen explained. “To kick off the integration, we produced a series of five NFC-enabled He-Man character cards, each featuring one of five fan character favorites.”

1. Making toys more engaging

By creating collectibles that help enhance game play, Mattel, PowerCore and Animoca Brands are making the mobile experience more engaging and giving the physical toys involved a purpose. Many toy veterans have struggled to innovate on a large scale, which is why the opportunity for startups is so great. Lean, creative startups in both the toy and gaming space can partner with more established brands to help them innovate while leveraging their existing distribution network and marketing resources to help grow the franchise.

The reason why toys-to-life has been successful is that it bridges the divide between children’s early toy-collecting years and the increasingly younger age at which they start to play with digital games. This digital divide was a part of the initial decline in the toy market, but by creating collectibles that are a part of game play, the industry has successfully created a transitional product for those that are beginning to make the switch to digital.

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