Sunday, June 14, 2009

Buy All Our Playsets and Toys

I just had an idea for a toy-type thing. This just popped into my head, so it's not yet fully formed, but I wonder if the concept could go somewhere.

My initial thought was to team up with LEGO, but there's no reason it couldn't be it's own thing. Assuming that it is LEGO-like, though, here's the idea... What's a playset, really? Some of the cooler ones do stuff - they have trap doors that action figures can drop down, or they shoot cannon balls or something - but, essentially, they serve as a sort of backdrop for the adventures of action figures. Playset - the set for the play your action figures perform. So you have the architecture and the visual theme. Generally, these tie in with the theme of some specific set of action figures. Most kids I've known had a bunch of action figures (or dolls), but only a few playsets. So, for example, let's say you're really into the Turtles, and you get a bunch of Turtles action figures, and for Christmas, your big present is the Technodrome. Then, let's say a few months later, you get a Bucky O'Hare figure for your birthday. Well, that's fine, they're both big, green, antropomorphic heroes, so you stick Bucky in with the Turtles and they all battle Shredder together in the Technodrome. Great. Now a few years go by, and you have Turtles and Bucky O'Hares and G.I. Joes and Trasformers and Little People all jumbled together, but the only place they every get to go is into the Technodrome from the Turtles' universe. That playset was really expensive, too, so you can't expect your parents to get you something new every time you get a different kind of action figure in your Happy Meal. It's the predicament of every middle-class 3-10 year old in Western society, but what do you do?

Making your own environments out of other materials is an option. You can make something out of... hmmmm... Legos. The trouble is, though, that things made out of Legos tend to either look like some specific LEGO theme (City, Space, Harry Potter, etc.) or like the generic LEGO theme of red, blue, and yellow bricks. Playsets made in this way may work architecturally, but they'll be second-class visually. You can make a playset out of something like cardboard, and draw on it and paint it until it looks right, but that can be a lot of effort and the results are generally not as arcitecturally sound.

So here's my solution: LEGO "What's Her Face". Basically, dry-erase Legos. Now, for all I know, Legos can already be used with dry erase markers. Not a problem. As with so many LEGO varieties, it's all about marketing. Put a bunch of white Legos in a box, throw in an assortment of dry erase markers and an eraser. Add in a few "gimmick" pieces - hinged pieces for trap doors little see-saws to use as catapults - and package additional gimmick sets in smaller boxes, along with additional markers. Produce a decent commercial. Make a trillion dollars.

Again, this could be any kind of sturdy, simple construction toy. They key is the ability to draw on it, erase it, knock it down, and create something new. Market it as the last playset parents will ever have to buy, and a creative, imaginative toy in it's own right.

Please don't steal my ingenious idea. If you do, at least give me a few billion dollars when you're rich. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Great basic concept. Using melamine panels (4x8 sheets from Home Depot under $15.00) cut to smaller sizes with recycled lock together wood strips with velcro hook & loop attachments, one could make some very cool play sets and individual pieces.
Like I said, great concept. Inexpensive to make and/or sell. Safe, fun, endless posibilities. Mr. Pen, great hands on idea, then you can development the video game version for the techno kids to play on an HD screen.

Jake said...

Oh, boy, wouldn't that be a fun one. Nothing better than manipulating building blocks on a TV screen with a controller.

Actually, "user-generated content" is the hot thing in video games at the moment. The ability to make and share levels and such is nothing new, but it's getting a lot of buzz. It' a trend I don't like. Including tools to let the player make their own levels is cool, but they're generally so limited and counter-intuitive that they have no value, or so core to the game that they limit the game is sold without well-made, professionally designed levels. Occasionally it's done right, but it's rare.