I’ve been lucky to spend 10 days at Disney World and Universal this summer, especially to see the newly opened Star Wars-land ‘Black Spire Outpost’ and the updated Harry Potter Diagon Alley.
As someone who does my best to create immersive experiences, these two lands have really raised the bar in terms of thematic immersion. We all try to make our toys and games immersive experiences, but it’s a constant battle to build in the things you know the fans want to see against a backdrop of price erosion.
The hobby games market has bucked this trend somewhat by offering a higher-priced product with lots of thematic value inside. It’s clear from the reviews that fans really value that, but on the whole, these are selling to an adult market where a $50 retail price can be a monthly treat.
The key to immersion is in the detail. It’s pretty easy to get the broad brush strokes right, but real immersion comes as you peel away the layers when you play with the toy or game. Finding ways to keep detail is a challenge that most toy designers face. Of course, it isn’t just hard ex-factory costs; it’s the time you have to put in upfront development costs.
However, it is clear to me that as an industry, the way forward is in greater immersive experiences, as the days of low-cost, light play value and disposable toys are coming to an end.
Environmental, retail and consumer expectation means that we have to keep raising our bar and deliver play experiences that excel and delight.
The digital world, of course, offers lots of opportunities to add immersion, but it’s not an easy component to get right. Many have tried; most have failed. VR and AR point the way, but it’s often a bit clumsy and can remove you from the immersion rather than pull you in. But the theme parks are finding innovative ways to blend these worlds so we should not give up on it!
The take out from this is really about drilling down on the detail; those little details that added together take your toy or game to the next level. The cool game guide that sets up the experience; the little deco details and accessories that fit just right; the way the figure stands and poses; the way the parts clips open and shut… I could go on and on.
I am sure we have all had those discussions that go: “it’s nice detail but is it going to sell any more units?” My answer now would be: well, do all those tiny details on the Millennium Falcon model or the carvings that are almost hidden within Diagon Alley make stop you paying the entrance price? Of course not, and added together, all these little details create the experience and show that the person or company who designed this really cared for your experience and it’s one that the consumer will come back for again and again.
Richard Heayes is the founder of PlayLenz and Heayes Design. He can be contacted at Richard@heayesdesign.com