At press time, Toy Craze, the Ohio-based manufacturer of collectible kids toy line Crazy Bones, was close to signing a licensing agreement with Leisure Concepts Inc., licensor of the hit kids TV show and Gameboy video game, Pokémon. Under the terms of the proposed two-year agreement, sources say Toy Craze would create a special line of Crazy Bones figurines using the likenesses of the Pokémon characters. Pending completion of the deal, Toy Craze will deliver the first wave of Pokémon Crazy Bones in November.
It’s official: The console wars
Can’t we all just get along? It’s a question Sega is likely asking itself regularly these days as the September 9 launch date of Dreamcast, the company’s latest best hope to reassert itself in the gaming universe, inches ever closer. With industry giants Nintendo and Sony currently dominating the console market, Sega will be hard-pressed to break through to consumers and retailers alike. The last time it tried to duke it out with both companies ended in a resounding failure, when it unleashed the SegaSaturn console in 1995 to lukewarm consumer response. But analysts are forecasting a much rosier future for Dreamcast.
‘Saturn didn’t sell well because there just wasn’t a good variety of games available to consumers,’ says Ilene Hasse, senior manager of the Interactive Division at the NPD Group.
This time around, that shouldn’t be a problem, notes Hasse, since Sega is launching Dreamcast with 16 titles, seven more than Nintendo issued when it released N64. Price will also be working in Sega’s favor. At an SRP of US$199, Dreamcast is US$50 cheaper than the launch price points for Sony’s PlayStation and N64. To help its cause at retail, starting this month, Sega will begin shipping Dreamcast kiosks with software and peripherals, POP displays and signage to stores. The company has hired in-store marketing specialists the Howard Marlboro Group to train store staff on the capabilities and selling points of the console.
So far, the response from retailers has been positive. At press time, pre-orders for the consoles were humming around the 78,000 mark, a respectable figure, though still well short of the company’s goal of 200,000 orders set for the console’s launch date.
With 26 megs of memory, multiplayer Internet hook-ups and the fastest graphics processing power of any console currently on the market, Dreamcast boasts some impressive specs (for a complete overview of Dreamcast’s technical capabilities see ‘Console domination: Sega’s dream come true?,’ page 18), and Sega should have at least a year to wow customers with them. Both Sony and Nintendo are at work on new consoles, set to street in North America in the latter half of 2000. Both systems, Sony Play-Station II and Nintendo’s new console (code-named Dolphin) reportedly promise to contain faster chips and more techno bells and whistles than Dreamcast. Let the games begin.
Zany’s IPO ushers in new era
for specialty market
The specialty toy retail market, often credited as the conscience of toy retailing because of its members’ mandate of carrying predominantly educational, nonviolent toys, may have nudged itself closer towards the mainstream with Zany Brainy’s recent decision to go public. ‘It marks a changing of the times. Specialty retailing is becoming more like a big business now,’ says Ed Roth, president of the leisure activities business unit at the NPD Group. Whereas Zany Brainy’s business plan as a privately held entity may have been primarily concerned with deciding what toys to buy, ‘now it will have to think about how it can take care of its shareholders,’ says Roth.
Last month, the edu-retailer, headquartered in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, issued 6.1 million shares of common stock to raise US$34.1 million (after expenses). According to ZB, it will use the money to pay down its bank debt, build a new distribution center, create an e-commerce site, integrate new point-of-sale software into all of its locations and open 50 more stores in 1999 and 2000.
your defective games!
Lord knows parents find few things more infuriating than discovering a scratch on their child’s recently purchased US$50 PlayStation game.
Well, they needn’t fret any more. Illinois-based digital innovations’ Game Doctor (US$34.99) promises to erase all small-to-medium scratches on CD-style video games that cause screen-freezing and booting problems. Place the damaged disk on GD’s spindle, spray on resurfacing fluid, turn the spindle for one rotation, then hit reverse. Voila, the scratch is history. GameDocter will also work on CD-ROMs, music CDs, recordable CDs and DVDs.