Toy Fair 2011: An Overview

Geek Culture

This year marked my third attendance of the New York Toy Fair, and it was by far the most underwhelming of the three. I had a hard time finding new and exciting — let alone truly geeky — toys this year. I counted, and ignored, no less than six Nerf gun knock-offs, a dozen or more “better” building toys and enough creepy dolls and stuffed animals to give me nightmares.

I suspect, and a few companies acknowledged, that they are holding off on new products until the economy rebounds a little. They only get one chance to release a product and if it fails it won’t get a second chance on the store shelves. A few companies, like Hasbro, Spin Master, and MEGA Brands unveiled a large line of products, but I felt like they held back on the high dollar items and concentrated on inexpensive and collectible toys. I’ll talk more about the coolest of their announcements in later posts.

Spending time walking the smaller booths didn’t yield a lot of great ideas, but there were a few gems:

Image: Matt Morgan

The remote control fish that Matt Morgan mentioned earlier were impressive. These were the first two production samples but they were fun to watch and looked reasonably easy to control. They are strictly an indoor toy, high ceilings recommended. Put me down for two or three when they hit the market this summer.

Andrew Hackard, the Munchkin Czar, was representing Steve Jackson Games. They were promoting the new and totally awesome Munchkin Zombies that Dave Banks previewed recently. Andrew was kind enough to give me a set of Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice and I met up with some friends and coworkers that evening for some gaming in the hotel bar. Both games are simple enough to play while conversing and tame enough for the young ones. Check out Z’s article for a simpler Cthulu Dice rules hack.

Image by Anton Olsen

The geekiest small items I saw were the LED accent lighting by Banana Design Lab. I got samples of the Fireplace Simulcra and the Deep-Sea Angler Fish. I had to fight the kids off long enough to snap a picture of the two before they were whisked off to their rooms. With a 2 hour automatic shut-off they are battery friendly and should run for days on a rechargeable 9V battery.

ThinkGeek was well represented and were demonstrating their new Joystick-It. Designed to work on any capacitive touch screen it offers a physical alternative to most on-screen d-pads. I’m going to get a couple of them for driving my robot with my Android phone.

Despite some minor disappointments, I still had a great time at Toy Fair 2011 and look forward to returning next year.

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