Toy Fair 2014: Are touchscreens replacing toys?

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

The Skylanders series blends classic action figure toys with virtual video game content. If you tried to buy every single figurine for Skylanders, each of which often costs around $15, it’d take hundreds of dollars!

As youth are raised on iPads and other mobile touchscreens, they’re playing less and less with normal physical toys. For instance, a research firm did a survey of 350 parents, and found that over 60% of them said their kids use a touchscreen “often”, while 38% said “very often”.  At this year’s Toy Fair, which ran from February 16-19 in New York, there was fierce competition between regular physical toys, virtual ones, and hybrid toys that straddle both worlds.

Part of the popularity of touchscreens over toys has to do with the fact that there are so many free apps to download and entertain kids with. Why go to Target for a box of Legos, when a couple of clicks at home and a download can create hours of endless fun and education?

Mind you, toys aren’t history just yet. There’re still plenty of kids who love using their imagination with action-figures and dolls, inventing whole worlds of their own making outside in the dirt or in a playhouse. At the Toy Fair this year, action figures and collectibles from Batman: The Animated Series, Game of Thrones, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lego Ghostbusters drew lots of attention.

What really made a splash, though, were Digipuppets and Tiggly, which provide traditional toys that can interact with touchscreens. Even Angry Birds has its own physical toys, called Telepods, that connect to phones and tablets to provide more characters. A particularly successful brand is the insanely popular Skylanders video game series that’s sold $1 billion worth of merchandise, where buying new action figures opens up digital content on console gaming devices.

Now, the one toy category that virtual items can’t ever really touch, are collectibles. The diehard toy collector often has entire shelves in their home devoted to limited edition mini statues, and this year’s Toy Fair had dozens upon dozens of 6-12 inch tall figurines. You just can’t prop an iPad on a shelf with an image of limited edition digital art with quite the same style as an actual physical object.

Featured image courtesy of Toy Fair Facebook.