Now, take this opinion/consultant commentary piece with a grain of salt, but I found it a fascinating read to learn more about how the toy establishment might view 3D printing, an field as likely as any to be impacted by the rise of mainstream adoption of personal manufacturing.
And yet, will 3D printing compete directly with the established toy industry, or simply provide an alternative track by pressing on the areas of dissatisfaction the public already feels with the field and throw a spotlight on shodding thinking? (In particular, the toy market’s commitment to serving as the merchandising wing for vertically integrated, trans-media IP for television, film, games, and comics, rather than an expressive context of its own as you might find in markets such as Germany and Japan.)
The number of deeply talented toy designers and creatives heading out on their own to engage in the very practices this piece warns about appears to be a tremendous source for innovation and excitement in a field that has otherwise changed very little since my childhood.
These are very dangerous times for those with a vested interest in the status quo. The music industry has been revolutionized by digital downloading driven by easy consumer access and online portals versus physical purchase.
For those who remember the resistance from the music industry to the change, perhaps in hindsight we can reflect that they should have taken an ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ approach….
The 2 major areas of change are 3d printing and crowd funding.
Now again, everyone knows about these 2 up and coming area, however, it appears to me that many companies have failed to understand the implications.
Just as the book industry power balance was entirely in favour of the publishers who controlled the gateway to retail/commercial opportunity, so the same effectively applies to Toy companies today.
Kindle stripped away the gatweay effect for book publishers.
Will crowd funding and 3d printing do the same to the Toy industry…?
Firstly let’s look at fundamental challenges in our industry:
1. Inventory/justifying MOQs.
2. Limited shelf space/listings at mass retail.
The first issue is a critical point, inventory represents THE biggest risk Toy companies have on an ongoing basis. But in terms of the industry as a whole, inventory risk and MOQs effectively act as barriers to entry into the industry. Combine that with limited mass retail shelf space for our Category, limited number of vendors per retailer and potentially company busting huge orders from some mass retailers, and in effect there is a bottleneck, where those who effectively control product input to retail effectively act as gatekeepers to the industry as a whole – like a dam holding back a huge mass of products pooling up behind the dam.
Anyone who has tried to open a new trading account with Walmart, Carrefour etc will understand my point here!
So here’s the critical point – by allowing (effectively) direct access to consumers 3d printing and crowd sourcing offer ‘dam busting’ opportunity to smaller players, to those with no capital, to those with low engineering/manufacturing understanding and therefore potentially can revolutionise our industry.
Although we might not think it (!), we currently have comparatively few Toys on offer versus App stores/book stores etc. This is because of the sheer risk of developing Toy products in terms of launch risk and financial investment.
BUT if you can use crowd funding to meet initial breakevens on mass produced products and 3d printing to allow more customisation and less need for robust and costly tooling etc., then you have completely changed the game! Suddenly those products that can’t hit a 50k units tooling breakeven become possible. The flood gates will open, which will open the market and lead to huge shifts in what sells and how it sells!