Not admitting to missing Toy Fair.

For the second year in a row, I skipped Toy Fair. My phone, email, and Facebook have been figuratively “ringing off the hook” with people trying to set meetings.

This got me wondering why I stopped going. There is the obvious …… I don’t work in the toy business. And the not so obvious …. I’m totally focused on interactive experiences – gaming, gaming everywhere – just not toys reliant on the retail shelf.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in what’s up at the American International Toy Show. There’s always a lot of cool stuff and this year a lot of cool stuff featuring cutting-edge technology and innovative play patterns.

Here’s a couple things I wish I’d seen in person.

“Angry Birds Knock on Wood” – Mattel game based on the massive Angry Birds franchise. It’s great to see one of the first brands to break out from the phone to the toy world.

“Sweet Talking Ken Doll” – Apparently this doll will say what Barbie wants to hear. Should be amazingly successful and good training for guys everywhere.

Cisco Products has a “Digi Piggy”. This is a digital piggy bank that let’s you track what you are spending or saving.

Barbie has a new “I Can Be” line. Now in addition to being a Fashion Model or Rock Star, little girls can be a Computer Engineer. Wearing pink, but still a Computer Engineer.

LeapFrog has a kid’s iPad device for $99. It has a camera, plays Apps, and books.

Lego Hogwart’s Castle.  With so much discussion about social play, it’s nice to see a toy that by nature is social. You need a Harry, Hermione, and Ron to help you put this massively amazing project together.

Fisher Price has an iPhone holder so that little kids can easily play touch screen games. This is a really nice idea for little ones.

And finally,  apparently Lego created a life-size Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. That alone would have made the trip to the Jacob Javits Center worth it!

What’s your favorite toy announcement?

E3 – what’s missing?

I’m dating myself, but I have attended every E3 since the beginning. And actually before the beginning …. when games companies showed at Comdex in Chicago, CES, and even New York Toy Fair. I missed two years – 2008 and 2009, when I took my detour into the toy business at LeapFrog and “didn’t have time” to visit E3. What a mistake …. because the games business marched on while I was away. Or did it?

E3 2010 was a 15 to 25 year old guys  gamer fantasy land.  Action, first person shooting games dominating – New Halo, new SOCOM, new Kill Zone. Big budget, high production value games akin to action movies stole the show – TRON.  Amazing new Star Wars games – The Old Republic and The Force Unleashed 2. New kinds of controllers – Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move got a lot of press. Nintendo DS 3D stole the show. On Live impressed. I found myself wondering ….. where are all the social games? where are all the mobile games? where are all the kids games?

Incredible to think that the most dynamic part of the gaming business was virtually unrepresented at E3.  No Zynga Farmville or Mafia Wars. No Tap Tap Revenge. No iPad Scrabble or iPhone Angry Birds. How did it happen that the Electronic Entertainment Expo became only about game product sold at retail?

Also interesting to think that even though kids may be the hardest core gamers of all (based on time spent playing), product for them is limited – except the biggest licenses like Toy Story , Harry Potter, and Mario.

In an industry that’s struggling to avoid the fate of the music business, why aren’t we   pushing harder to expand the audience with compelling, innovative game play for all audiences and working harder on the marketing side to make sure these games get the exposure deserved?

The gaming business has changed in the two years I was away. E3 didn’t, but it should have.

What I learned at GDC aka Game Developers Conference

I’ve spent the last two days at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. When I had a “big” game job in publishing, I looked at this event as a total geekfest and sent producers to represent the company (and didn’t attend myself).  Fast forward to 2010. I’m now a self annointed Marketing Maven in the interactive content space (see my beautiful new business card)  and am happily rubbing elbows with anyone who will listen at GDC. And it’s been inspiring!  GDC is absolutely buzzing. Social Gaming is everywhere.  Two days and over 30 sessions on social/mobile gaming alone and lots of great discussion on what the success of Farmville and Facebook games means to the game industry at large. As well, much discussion about the “Game-ification of Social / Web Apps” and how game play can improve all kinds of activities from booking travel to losing weight to child rearing. Interesting times to be a marketer focused on the kids and family space and interactive content.  Someone asked me “how will the grayhairs of gaming make the transition to web and social”?  Once I ascertained that he wasn’t referring to my invisible gray hair we had a good dialogue. Experienced game folks – both marketers and developers will have a place in the new world. Content will always be king, but metrics and an analytics based approach to developing interactive content that works will be the hallmark of this generation of games. Interesting times to be a marketer. Gray haired or otherwise.

Looking. Up.