Year-over-year US sales of interactive gaming toys fell by a staggering 66% in December 2017, according to market research firm The NPD Group. The sharp declines in this category were offset by an 11% overall spending increase across hardware, software and accessories for full-year 2017, with total sales reaching US$14.6 billion.
Hardware spending increased by 28% last year to US$4.7 billion. Nintendo Switch was a significant driver for that growth, according to NPD. On a time-aligned basis through the first 10 months on the market, in fact, the Nintendo Switch has sold more consoles than any other platform in history.
Slumping sales across interactive gaming toys are timed with recent departures of industry heavy hitters like LEGO and Disney from the category. In October, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, TT Games and The LEGO Group announced they were ceasing production on further expansion packs for the toys-to-life game LEGO Dimensions (pictured). Moving forward, new expansion packs will no longer be made, though existing packs will continue to work and remain available for purchase. In 2016, Disney announced it would shutter its toys-to-life series Infinity, and would also stop self-publishing video game operations to focus exclusively on third-party licensed titles.
However, new players continue to enter the toys-to-life universe. Nintendo is set to launch Nintendo Labo, a new line of cardboard-based, interactive DIY experiences for kids that work with the company’s Switch console system and Joy-Con controllers (both sold separately). The line will launch on April 20 and features a number of Toy-Cons that can be constructed, including a functioning 13-key piano, a remote controlled car, a fishing rod, a house and a motorbike.
And last year’s E3 conference brought the announcement of an upcoming toys-to-life adventure game from Ubisoft entitled Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Developed by Ubisoft Toronto for a worldwide launch this fall, the game is unique compared to other toys-to-life brands in that entirely customizable Starlink toys can be mounted onto a player’s game controller.