The toy car is still standing around on a table. But shortly afterwards it becomes the protagonist in a computer game. For this, Tony Nitschke holds his smartphone over the red car - and this appears in a street scene in which zombies scurry around as well as cars. Nitschke pushes the real car on the table in front of him - and hits a zombie in the game.
The whole thing is made possible by an app with artificial intelligence that Nitschke developed with his partner, both aerospace engineers. This connects the real with the digital world. The start-up from Berlin is still one of the pioneers on the toy market. But the world's largest toy fair in Nuremberg sees great potential in toys of this type. At the industry meeting from Wednesday to Sunday, these are one of the three trend topics.
Plush toys and dolls are also available
A day before the official opening, numerous international manufacturers are showing their new products: for example a toy robot that does push-ups, stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes, model trains, building sets, board games and colorful toy figures. In the past two years, the fair had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the industry benefited from the exceptional situation, which increased many people's desire to gamble.
But the Corona boom has died down. At the same time, inflation and the energy crisis are curbing the desire to buy. According to estimates by the Federal Association of Toy Retailers, people in Germany spent 4.7 billion euros on toys from January to October last year - not as much as in the record year 2021, but still as much as in the strong year 2020.
Manufacturers in particular, who were able to grow particularly well in the Corona crisis, felt the effects. Last year, for example, sales at the model railway market leader Märklin and at the games manufacturer Ravensburger fell slightly. Many companies now want to fuel the desire to buy with new products.
From the point of view of the experts at the toy fair, two major trends could conquer the trade this year: retro toys that revive the cult of He-Man and other well-known heroes or - like a solar system with a motor or a backpack with a magnifying glass , binoculars and landing net - invite you to discover.
The Metaverse is not for small children
The third trend, meta toys - that is, toys that mix the real and the digital - is only just beginning in comparison. "It's still a very small seedling," says Christian Ulrich from the Board of Directors of the Spielwarenmesse. The selection is still manageable.
But the Munich market researcher Axel Dammler is certain: "The applications will come - maybe not in this year or next, but they will come." An important prerequisite for this is that the technologies become so affordable that their use in the toy sector is worthwhile. One example is the drones, which are now also available as children's toys.
However, the expert does not believe in a trend that works for all children. "The Metaverse doesn't make any sense for little kids at all," says Dammler. They needed toys to touch. This is the only way they can learn how to grasp things, for example, how they feel and how they work.