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Toy design in the age of Metaverses

The history of Metaverses is a young one and however, as many other stories of today as NFTs and crypto currencies, will most probably have a role in consumer experiences and even our lives tomorrow. And in this context toys, maybe not the ones we are used to, are not only involved but will play a big part in this new business. That’s why I wanted to understand and try to figure out what could possibly become toy design in the age of Metaverses. Just to point this question seems to let me travel in time in seconds… but let’s try first to make things as straight as possible from what I have observed so far.

What is happening is that big (and bold) companies are investing already considerable amounts of money and this fever seems to be contagious. In the toy world this is involving manufacturers as Lego but also media properties like Hello Kitty and virtual worlds companies as Sandbox, as explains Nic Mitham from Metaversed in this post. Today we have become familiar with toy makers cooperating with media properties, as normally happens for licensed toys and merchandising promoted by media productions such as cartoons and movies. In some ways we are getting used to toys that also have a digital part, as we have seen when writing about Sago mini, LEGO Boost and many others. The addition of this third type of actors, virtual worlds companies, has created what Mitham effectively calls “the golden triangle”. 

Metaverse is hard to define in a few words and it’s not yet possible to forecast what role will play in children’s development and play time, and yet to understand where all this is bringing us toy designers I would start from the only point in this triangle that has a physical dimension and that we know, toys. We have been debating for decades on how video games have impacted on the way children play, fearing that at some point in the future physical toys could become history, but didn’t happen yet. And parents are more and more concerned with screen time and educational values of toys in a world strongly leaded by consumerism.

So I believe as long as we will consider toys only present in the physical realm we will be disconnected with the educational need of making kids feel “part of their time”, for instance being able to socialize in new ways with peers, otherwise making them feel isolated, issue underestimated in many physical toys… So let’s hope we will be able to drive a critical development of this new playground considering that physical play will always play a major role in the mental and physical development of children, and that parents will be able to value social interactions and sensory experiences in the real life as well as virtual ones.

The goal of companies investing in the Metaverse right now seems to be to acquire assets to be in the future more and more connected with an audience in growth (online gamers) that is lowering its age dramatically as years are passing. Kids are becoming considered more and more “young consumers”, if not in actually buying things, definitely in being tracked in their behaviors so they can drive adults’ buying choices on their behalf… after all, wish letters are there for a reason. 

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