Welcome to the weekly Friday Feature, where I post a random topic, usually something light-hearted and fun (but I reserve the right to post a serious topic, too).
Question: What is the single best-selling toy of all time?
Would you say Legos? Barbie? Silly Putty? Etch-a-Sketch? The Yo-Yo? Jack-in-the-Box? Barnyard Commandos? (Just kidding about this last one!)
Except for Barnyard Commandos, any of those would be great guesses, as they are indeed top-selling toys–but not the single best-selling one. Here are a couple of clues: the top-selling toy of all time has only been around for 40 years, and you can hold it in the palm of your hand.
Can you guess what it is? You have thirty seconds and you can play the Jeopardy Theme song while you think:
If you guessed the Rubik’s Cube, give yourself a high-five. It is the best selling toy all time since 1980.
Did you ever try to solve a Rubik’s cube? They were popular when I was a kid. I think I did try to solve it, and maybe accomplished it a couple of times, but it was hard! Some people who kept at it, and practiced, ended up quite good at it.
Now, why am I thinking about toys in June? We’re months away from the madness of the holiday season. We’re in the midst of outdoor pool season. I should be writing about floaties and swim goggles, right?
Here’s why: a few days ago I came across this video of a unique world record:
Did you watch? Amazing! How did he do that? Would you ever think of solving three Rubik’s cubes simultaneously while juggling? Apparently, someone did think of it, and achieved a world record doing so. I can’t imagine how much practice and time that took. I wonder, did he quickly finish his homework after school and then spend hours and hours practicing?
If you’re good at the Rubik’s Cube, or want to be, check out the World Cubing Association. Competitions are held all over the world; I’m sure there is one in a country near you. : )
If you do sign up, let’s hope you aren’t competing against the young man above!
As I was reading about the Rubik’s cube, I came across a few toys that, for whatever reason, just didn’t take off. If you also happen to be curious about these toys flops like I was, here you go: 12 toys from the 1980s that just didn’t take off.
We may never know why the plastic angry-looking donut Food Fighters didn’t quite take off. Well, I do have a theory: Who can be mad at a doughnut? Or an ice cream cone? Seriously, turning these sweet tasty treats and favorite foods into plastic angry-looking hellions probably wasn’t the best idea. Take a look below. Maybe they market-tested on the wrong people. We may never know what truly happened in this case….
Let’s consider next the example of the Barnyard Commandos, cute squeaky toy pigs and sheep that ended up wearing armor? What happened to these innocent farm animals and why are they fighting? The answer is found in the packaging for the Barnyard Commandos:
“After eating some of the grain the Pigs and Sheep started acting kind of funny. Some started driving the tractors around like tanks, others started digging trenches. Soon after, an all-out war erupted between the Barnyard Commandos!”
The sentiment behind the two warring factions of Barnyard Commandos was defined perfectly by their acronyms: the R.A.M.S. (Rebel Army of Military Sheep) fought the P.O.R.K.S. (Platoon of Rebel Killer Swine); these foes fought against one another in military fashion. Each individual action figure package contained a “Secret Code Book” which taught the consumer how to speak a top secret language: Pig Latin.
Amusing. Well, somewhat. My brain doesn’t want to think about anything serious, so amusing it is. It makes me wonder what working for a toy company would be like. How many ideas must they go through before deciding on the next hopeful winner? It might be interesting to go through their trash pile of discarded ideas, because based on the flops, the sky is certainly the limit in terms of creative options.
Despite these failures, though, obviously there have been some toy winners, as we witness each year on Black Friday. But I do wonder, other than the young child toy market, how well are actual toys faring nowadays? After all, kids today have iPads, iPhones, the XBox, Wii, and dozens of games that can be downloaded onto personal electronic devices. Video game options are themselves their own subject entirely. How have these technologies impacted the toy market?
- Kids will be able to use 3D printers to print their own toys at home.
- Some toys will be able to respond to kids’ individual interests.
- Kids will be able to interact with their favorite characters.
- “Screen time” may be a thing of the past. Consider this: “It’s likely that today’s kids who are “digital natives” — meaning they’ve grown up with technology front and center in their life — will make fewer distinctions between physical and digital toys, and see them equally.” Hmm… now that is some food for thought.
So in other words, in the foreseeable future, kids will be able to design and 3D print their own Barnyard Commandos and even “talk” with them. In Pig Latin, even. Oh, parents, maybe you’ll want to rethink the 3D printer….
On the other hand, though, perhaps your child (or grandchild) will design and print the next famous puzzle toy, and outsell the bestselling Rubik’s Cube. 🙂
I think, though, it is fitting to end this post with a goodbye. Toys r Us closes its stores today. It’s the end of an era.