got back from New York City, where we were attending the Toy
Fair, and boy are our legs tired. We decided to take the train,
and otherwise traveled only by foot and subway (with our backpacks
growing heavier each day as we collected literature, promos,
and even sample games) so we ended up doing quite a bit of walking.
Plus the Toy Fair itself is unbelievably huge... the exhibit
hall was by far the biggest I've ever explored, and the event
overflowed that space into 2 additional halls. So by the time
we got home we were dead on our feet. But we had a great time
at the show, and hanging out in the big city with Dawn.
One morning, we ate cake for breakfast, at the Cupcake Cafe (halfway
between the Port Authority and Javit's Center). It was just that
kind of trip.
Toy Fair is when all the toy and game manufacturers show off
their product lines for the coming year, and often the first
signs of what will be a big hit at Christmas time are seen at
Toy Fair. Last year, for example, the Furby was debuted (in rough
prototype form) at Toy Fair. So the first question in everyone's
mind is, what will this year's big hit be?
What was odd about this year's show is that everyone already
knew what the big hit is going to be, yet we didn't get to see
what it actually looks like. Everyone agrees the most popular
toys of '99 will be the new line of Star Wars: Episode 1 stuff,
but because of the secrecy surrounding the film, the toys are
all top secret. Only a select few retailers got into the secret
showroom where the secret new toys were secretly displayed.
other franchise that loomed large at Toy Fair was the TeleTubies.
While Star Wars was on people's minds but nowhere in sight, the
TeleTubies were everywhere you looked - even on the stairs. And
everyone was laughing about Jerry Falwell's recent condemnation
of Tinky-Winky, though for some vendors it was perhaps a nervous
possibility of a pulpit-driven boycott was heavy on the minds
of those with lots of TeleTubies merchandise in their booths.
So everyone was asking: Is Tinky-Winky really gay? (Kristin
meanwhile was much more puzzled by a Little Lulu display she
noticed. Just what message is Lulu trying to send by pulling
up her dress that way?)
One exciting bit of news we learned is that the film Yellow
Submarine (which for years has been out of circulation due to
legal battles) is being re-released this year, amidst enormous
hype, first in a theatrical release, then finally on home video.
Sony, who apparently ended up with the complete package of rights,
is signing up licensees for the marketing and merchandising blitz
that will no doubt include everything from fast food kid's meal
toys to videogames. (Now there's a project I'd like to work on...)
In one of the overflow halls, we found a fellow entrepreneur-hippie
who was offering a product he calls the Original Egg Game, and
we liked it so much we ordered a copy of on the spot. It's a
large masonite disk and a pair of stone eggs; the idea is for
2 or 3 people to hold the disc between them and start the eggs
spinning upon it, and then keep them spinning for as long as
possible by gently moving the disk. He said the current record
is over 3 hours. It's a very zen-like game.
Meanwhile, we noticed not 1 but 2 single-game companies selling
games about mutual funds, and another 2 companies selling tablets
meant to turn your children's bathwater bright colors. And then
there's the company that was offering Biblical Action Figures.
The line of 10 figures includes Jesus, Mary, Moses, and Job,
and even a generic Angel, but not God himself... I wonder if
next year's series will correct this oversight, with a God figure
that is huge and shiny.
And then there's Zobmondo,
the game of horrible choices. It's a game with your basic Trivial
Pursuit structure, but instead of answering trivia questions,
the "Cards of Unenjoyment" challenge you to choose
the less horrible of 2 choices. Most of the sample questions
we got are both disturbing and disgusting; the categories range
from "Pain/Fear/Discomfort" to "Food/Ingestion"
to "Ethics/Intellect". A few samples:
- Would you rather meet your greatest hero and vomit on them
-OR- in trying to meet them, be arrested and publicly accused
- Be separated from your family (parents, siblings, children)
and never see them again in person -OR- live with them for the
rest of your life in a two bedroom house?
- Eat a shot glass full of live wasps - OR- eat a shot glass?
Our own product line was wonderfully displayed in the ICE/Mayfair
booth, and many people took copies of our new retailer catalog.
(Speaking of which, the Back Room I mentioned last week wasn't
quite finished when the update was ready, but it's open now...
if you know of a store that ought to carry our products, please
direct their purchasing agent to our Retailers Only on-line ordering
We saw a million other cool things at Toy Fair and I can't
tell you about everything, but here's a bunch of other cool stuff
- The folks at SET have a new word game card game called Quiddler,
which looks like something the Scrabble fans will love
ZOME system of construction
toys is something we already knew was cool, but discovered it's
extra cool when used with bubble soap
- Lionel Trains has a new clear plastic tanker car filled with
Liquid Lava (en route to the Lava Lamp factory, of course)
- The Stak-Its toy company is selling plastic cards with bumps
for use in building a better house of cards
- Out of the Box games
has a new one called Apples and Oranges that had a fun demo
- The Stone is an massively
multi-player internet puzzle game in which everyone has a stone
amulet bearing a set of 6 mystic symbols that match only one
other, somewhere out in cyberspace
- The Midnight Snack Fridgeware company is selling magnetic
chess sets that are intended for use in extended games played
on the refrigerator door
- A children's music CD by Parachute Express has a song called
"Doctor Looney's Remedy"
- A company called Hog
Wild sells several cool things, including a sculpture toy
called the Benders, a set of really groovy little posable magnetic
covered slinkys with heads are on the way (Kristin wants a giraffe)
- And lastly there's "Magic
Nuudles", colorized versions of those biodegradable
packing peanuts, which are sold as a construction plaything:
you lick 'em and stick 'em together to build stuff.
But of all the things we noticed, perhaps the most interesting
was the sheer number of little companies with just one (or a
small handful) of game products. We were surprised by just how
many of them (or should I say, of us) there were, and we always
enjoyed talking shop with the owners of such companies. There's
always a lot we can learn from each other, with the big question
of course being how best to increase our visibility in the marketplace,
and we often talked of ways we might work together to mutually
improve our chances of being among the companies that return
to Toy Fair next year. Naturally this is a particularly important
issue to us at this time, and we've had some interesting thoughts
on the topic. But I've written enough for now... tune in next
week for more on the on-going question of what we're doing with