One demo enjoying the digital industry’s new ability to provide more for less are preschoolers and toddlers.
Preschool staple Fisher-Price (a division of Mattel) continues to deliver products to tots as they have always done, but technological advancements have allowed their products to tech up. When FP introduced its product line at Toy Fair three years ago, approximately 10% of the gadgets had some form of chip technology; at Toy Fair 2000, chips were incorporated into 60% of the company’s 240 SKUs.
Targeting toddlers ages nine to 36 months, Fisher-Price’s IntelliTable is a joint venture with Microsoft that incorporates the digico’s Smart Technology to automatically advance the difficulty level of activities as a child grows from toddler to preschooler. Slated to hit shelves in August 2000 (SRP US$59.99), the gadget features three content-specific learning areas (basic, music and games), as well as motivating sounds and lights. Although Fisher-Price acknowledges that a nine-month-old isn’t going to do much more than bang away uncomprehendingly on the keyboard, the company feels the response-driven software will slowly teach tots that computers are input devices that can be manipulated to arrive at specific outcomes.
Also among FP’s 2000 tech lineup are: Jammin’ Draw (SRP US$29.99), an activity board that creates music while a child draws, hitting shelves in May; and the June-launching Read With Pooh (SRP US$39.99), an interactive plush bear that comes with a remote control for turning Pooh’s pages as the child turns his.
In addition to the increasingly affordable nature of technology, Hasbro Interactive GM and VP of marketing John Hurlbut, points to the Kids Getting Older Younger trend as another reason why more technologically advanced toys and games are being aimed at the preschool level. Hasbro is introducing three new keytops this year, including the September-launching Barney Magical Music Playset (SRP US$39.99), which allows kids ages three and up to watch animals dance, create funny jukebox songs, and choose tunes for Barney’s One-Man Band. Also coming out September, The PlaySkool Store (SRP US$39.99) lets kids ring up sales and play games designed to sharpen their calculating and number skills.
Last year’s successful Barbie for Game Boy, coupled with a market demand for products targeting younger gamers, has led to Mattel Media branching into other platforms. Mattel and Nickelodeon plan to spin popular preschool show Blue’s Clues beyond the PC onto Sony’s PlayStation console. Launching this fall, Blue’s Clues’ The Big Music Show has players solving mysteries while helping Steve and Blue with detail work (setting up the stage, finding performers and choosing songs) for a concert. Once the show is assembled, the child will get to view an animated version of the show, spawning a new gen of Andrew Lloyd Webbers.