Toy industry trade magazine Toy Directory has an article discussing how action figure sales are declining even as the blockbuster films they’re based on are more popular than ever:
Aside from the usual “kids don’t want plastic replicas, they want interactive experiences” discussion (which is true, and when combined with rising production costs is why I think action figure collecting will be solely a niche market for adults in 10-15 years, like baseball cards and comics before them), the article does have an interesting theory about how all the bunched-together blockbusters and their attendant toy lines crowd one another out. When I was a kid, you got one Batman, maybe Dick Tracy the following year, and then maybe another Batman. Now there can be as many as six to seven heavily-merchandised movies per year.
The writer’s summation is sobering:
In summary, the buyers believe that the Action Figure category – buffeted by technological change, degradation of supporting media and eroding consumer interest – is not going to go back to the good old days. Yes, they think that movie-supported action figures will still sell but that the Skylanders and the Inifinitys of this world will be the decisive future drivers.
Again, this isn’t a surprise. We’ve all seen this coming for years now. And who knows – if the electronic options that are available now had been around when I was a kid, perhaps I would have never developed this odd affinity for action figures.
And yet, evidently Skylanders may offer some hope:
A technological change introduced early last year promises to affect the way kids use toys – the Skylanders and now also Infinity. Both marry physical toys to a video game console and allow a completely new way of playing. In the opinion of the Buyers at the large retailers, the Skylanders clearly encroach upon the Action Figure space whereas Infinity affects both Action Figures and Preschool. Whilst NPD classifies the Skylanders as well as Infinity as video games rather than toys, the Buyers disagree and they demonstrate this by putting the two ranges both into their video game space as well as their toy aisles. In fact, if the Skylanders had been included in NPD’s Toy Category, they would have given a major bump to the Action Figure retail sales performance for 2012 and would also have reversed the continuous decline of the overall NPD Toy Market estimates over the past ten years.
Kids still like having toys. They just need more interaction with them – either a video game, or perhaps some construction element, like LEGO. Find a way to do both and you just might have a huge hit on your hands.
(Thanks to GeneralsJoes for the heads-up.)