The Coolest Star Wars Toy Ever: The Adult Toys Awaken
Not that kind of adult toy, you dirty-minded sperglord. I'm talking about toys, like action figures and other nerdy things, that are marketed and created for adults to play with. This past Friday was Force Friday, where the new line of Star Wars toys for The Force Awakens was unleashed upon the world. In this line of toys came your standard action figures and LEGOs, even this admittedly pretty sweet Chewbacca Bowcaster Nerf gun:
However, all of these toys absolutely pale in comparison to what is sure to be this holiday season's Tickle-me-Elmo. You see, there is this neat little toy company called Sphero, which has been producing little app-controlled robots since 2011. Their flagship product, Sphero, is a tiny little plastic ball that you can roll around via remote control. Neat tech, but it never really caught on. However, Disney was smart enough to see the potential in their technology and allowed Sphero to participate in their technology start-up accelerator program. Next thing you know, a deal has been struck, and this little guy is the result:
That's right, there is no special-effects wizardry here - you can own your very own replica version of BB-8, the new R2-D2-esque droid from the upcoming Star Wars film. Just like Sphero, it can be remote-controlled via an mobile app and features all the bells and whistles of an official Disney product. It is pretty much the most perfect movie toy ever created thus far, using state-of-the-art technology and reminding us that maybe we're progressing as a species. Check out this video to see more:
This little guy is going to run you about $150, which I think is pretty pricey for a fancy plastic RC car. The original Sphero did not succeed and the reasons why were mostly centered around it's expensive price point for a children's toy. The BB-8 is already and will continue to fly of the shells faster than hotcakes dipped in Kelis' milkshake, however. So why is BB-8 the big success and not the original Sphero? The obvious answer is that Star Wars is an enormous franchise and the appeal of owning a little droid from the famed movie series is insatiable. But looking at the history of Star Wars, which at this point is almost a 40 year old franchise, and the majority of people purchasing BB-8 are going to be older. (For reference, Star Wars is older to us today than Citizen Kane was on the opening day for A New Hope. Sorry to make you feel old.) No child has enough allowance to plunk down $150 on anything, so adults are going to be buying BB-8 for their kids. But is it really even for the kids? I think the majority of people playing with BB-8 this holiday season are going to be adults. My evidence lies in the new market for adult playthings, specifically targeting the geek demographic.
What's that buzzing sound you hear at the beach these days? Oh yeah, it's one of those flying quadcopters, being flown by that skinny guy in khaki pants. That skinny guy is almost invariably an engineer at some software company and he and all of his buddies have been pursuing their geeky hobbies under the radar for decades. That's all been changing the last few years however, as the second tech boom we've been experiencing has flooded the consumer market with thousands of geeky millennials that have sweet tech jobs. These young, often single men and women of science no longer have to pursue their hobbies in shameful privacy because it is fast becoming the norm. You're young, single and have plenty of disposable income? You should buy one of these!
All joking aside, geeky millennials are becoming a serious force in the consumer market since businesses have taken note of their tastes and spending habits. The shift from thinking about playing with toys as a kids activity to an adult hobby has been a long time coming. The toys may be bigger and more expensive, but the concept is largely the same. From tabletop games to jet-ski/ATV combos, there is now a serious amount of adult entertainment that captures the sense of wonder and delight from when we were children. It could be another symptom of millennials refusing to grow up, but I'll suggest a perhaps more intriguing answer - Maybe the ability of these geeks to connect to their inner child is the same ability that gives them the creativity to solve real problems in our rapidly evolving world of smart phones.