Toys to Life, Augmented Reality, What’s Next in the Gaming Industry?

09/09/2016 02:42 am ET
Pokemon Go has pushed augmented reality more mainstream than ever before.
Pokemon Go has pushed augmented reality more mainstream than ever before.

The toy and gaming industry are changing rapidly with the advent of technologies like Toys to Life, Augmented Reality, Connected Gaming, and the list goes on. PokemonGo has shown there is demand for more Augmented Reality experiences. While the app itself is still being developed, consumer adoption is at a higher level than could have been imagined.

This marks a shift in mobile gaming, from a closed loop, in-app interface, to integrated experiences that take gaming into the real world. With so many recent changes, and an open field for competition, it is exciting to think about what innovations will come next. To learn a little more about the future of these industries I connected with Jia Shen, CEO and founder of PowerCore a digital activation company working closely with both of these developing industries.

PokemonGo, Augmented Reality, Connected Gaming, is it just hype or is something changing in mobile gaming?

Shen: Gaming has often been about diving into a fantasy or partaking in a different universe. Pokemon Go, AR, and other technologies only become relevant when they contribute to creating these kinds of experiences. Pokemon Go is a great example of a generation of Pokemon hunters finally being able role-play that narrative of walking in the real world and catching pocket monsters. Statistically speaking, games that break this barrier open up the industry to new audiences that weren’t playing games on mobile. These games are conquering the charts, while only slightly impacting other games already in the market.

Pokemon Go took the world by storm and was quickly labeled a fad.
Pokemon Go took the world by storm and was quickly labeled a fad.

While some people are calling it a fad, it has yet to taper off in its popularity or users. This says more about AR and connected gaming than it does about the Pokemon franchise. It indicates a significant demand for games that integrate with everyday life. It’s not all about sitting down in front of a TV and a console anymore, gaming can happen anywhere.

What changes or upgrades are happening in the toys industry?

Shen: The Toy Shelf space has become increasingly competitive in recent years because of toys that are smaller, more expensive, and sell more per consumer. Big trends are concentrating heavily around gaming and gaming type mechanics. Beyond the Toys-to-Life movement, we’re seeing the rise of blindbox gaming mechanics emerge. Everyone from Lego, to Funko, and Mattel are embracing a gacha gaming mechanic was originally popularized in Japan and Asia abroad. These type of blind collection toys create a sense of surprise getting consumers to buy more products over their lifespan with a toy brand. The game mechanic compels via desire to get certain toys and a need to complete a collection.

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The concept of the Toy Platform or Toy Blank has become a very viable toy licensing strategy. Lego is the most well known player in this group, but Funko with their POP! Line has demonstrated a huge demand for this model. Lego minifigures and the Funko toys both feature baseline design that are highly stylized. The licensing and skinning on these platforms create a high level of collectability once the platform itself is selected. San Diego Comicon showed off how popular these collectibles have become, selling out and commanding huge lines.”

Jia Shen, CEO and Founder of PowerCore
Jia Shen, CEO and Founder of PowerCore

What are your thoughts on Disney’s exit from Toys-to-life and gaming?

Shen: Toys-to-life was pioneered by AAA studios and only exists on consoles. That market has been consistent in the revenue and merchandise movement. Q4, right before Disney quit, was the biggest and most successful for the entire industry. To us, the innovation and growth really is in mobile games and free-to-play. Gaming has increasingly moved away from the console, especially in younger, more toy-friendly demographics. This trend works well with where Toys in general are moving, having more intelligence, interactivity, and connectivity.

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