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Toy manufacturers are launching products ‘with adults in mind,’ expert says

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Pop Insider Editor-In-Chief Marissa Silva examines the "kidulting" trend in the toy industry and developing nostalgic toys for adults.

Video Transcript

- All right, well, if you're an adult who loves toys, there's nothing to be ashamed of. You're just one of many millions of kidults. The American Toy Association says 58% of adults bought a toy for themselves last year alone. On TikTok, videos of adults doing just that have more than 4 billion views.

Marissa Silva is the "Pop Insider" editor-in-chief. She joins us now. Nice to see you, Marissa. We're not talking about Barbie dolls per se, which we might in a moment, but what are adults buying when it comes to toys and why?

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, absolutely. You know adults are not only just buying toys that are typically designed for kids. They're actually buying toys designed for them. So toy manufacturers are really aware of this trend, and they're actually cranking out new products that have adults in mind.

Take, for example, LEGO is making LEGO sets that are designed for 18-plus. So they're really more intricate toys, they're highly collectible, they have great quality, and they're really made for grownups.

- And I will say the nostalgia aspect of a lot of these stories is just delicious. We know that there's an ET board game that was one of my favorite things that I saw was coming out. Tell us more about that and really that crossover between the movie and the board games and what that brings to the table.

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, you know, there's always been a really strong relationship between franchises, movies, video games, things like that, and physical products, right. So you wanna recreate those experiences that you have watching one of your favorite films with a physical item. And nostalgia's really playing into this because all those films that we grew up with-- "ET," "Back to the Future," "Star Wars," you name it-- they're getting these amazing licensing lines full of collectibles-- toys, games.

And I love this because it's really allowing adults to connect with their kids in new ways. So even if, like, maybe they don't get the movie as much as we do, as much as we love it, they're gonna enjoy spending that time together as a family maybe enjoying a board game.

- Marissa, quantify this for us, this trend here, because when you take a look at how much some of these costs, you brought up LEGOs before, the botanical garden that we were showing, that cost just around $50, much more expensive than what I will be spending on LEGOs for my two-year-old. So how big of an opportunity is this for some of these larger names?

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, for sure. I mean, we're not talking about a 1999 collectible action figure necessarily. We're more talking about, like, a Masaki, Masters of the Universe, Skeletor artistic figure that cost upward of $400. So there are a lot of these really high end collectibles. Hasbro's really known for this with their black series light sabers. Those go for about $250.

And the quality kind of speaks for itself. These are not necessarily things that you're gonna want your kids, your nieces, and nephews playing with. You're gonna want to take them and display them high up on a beautiful shelf somewhere.

- I'll tell you what. Go into the Harry Potter store in New York at any time of day, and it's at least 50% adults if not higher. What do you think facilitated this trend, and are we seeing these toy companies actually market toward adults?

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, for sure. I mean, listen, the world is a scary, stressful place right now, and I think as adults, we're all just kind of looking for ways to disconnect from the noise and have some fun, frivolous, like, relaxation time, and toys and games and play can be a really great outlet for that when you just need to take a beat, take a break from all the craziness going on in the world. And, yeah, manufacturers are super aware that this is a thing that adults are buying toys for them, and they're definitely taking advantage by carving out some room within their product lines to create things that are just for grownups.

- And how have you seen that change over the last few years. Obviously with the pandemic, people were home. You know, they wanted things to engage in. And then in terms of whether they're willing to pay these kinds of price tags, if you think my goodness what if my eight-year-old decides to play with the light saber, I'd be in tears if I paid thousands of dollars.

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, you know, collecting is addicting, so basically what we saw in the pandemic is that suddenly there was a lot of room in the budget, right. We weren't going out to eat, we weren't going to concerts, we weren't absorbing entertainment in some of those traditional ways, and we were stuck at home looking for ways to engage with our friends whether virtually or spend time together as a family or even just unplug by ourselves and, like, enjoy a puzzle or a LEGO set. So I think that habits die hard, and then once you start to get into some of these things, you realize how much you love them and they're here to stay. So I think that this trend is definitely going to stick around, and this is going to be something that we see even more of moving forward.

- Marissa, before you're saying, we were talking about Wordle-- The New York Times" teaming up with Hasbro to make Wordle, which is played on the phone into a board game. From your expertise, just the games that have been successful in the past, is that going to translate? Do you think this will be a hot ticket item over the next couple of months heading in to that very important holiday season?

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, absolutely. There are 15 toy experts on my team at the Toy Insider, and as soon as we saw this news today, we were all freaking out. I think that everyone who's a fan of Wordle is going to be really excited by this physical adaptation that adds a new layer of competitiveness into it because you can in real time brag to everyone about how great you are at Wordle without waiting for those likes to roll in on social media.

- Just amazing. I have Yahtzee and a number of board games that became apps, and now we're doing it in reverse. Got to come full circle, too. We talked about Barbie on the way in and now the Barbie movie is being made and the Mattel CEO says it will be a, quote, cultural event. Why do you think?

MARISSA SILVA: Yeah, I really have to agree with him. Just based on what we're seeing with how excited fans are, every time a photo from the set is released-- I mean, literally they put out these photos of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling wearing roller skates and, like, neon outfits, and, like, those things were trending in search terms through the-- people were already saying where can I buy that. Where can I get that outfit? So I think that this film is going to be definitely a blockbuster hit, and it's going to be one that everyone's flocking to the movie theaters to go see next July.

- You know, Marissa, you're kind of selling me on it. I was a little-- I wasn't too excited about the movie. Maybe I need to reconsider. I don't know. We'll see.

- We're going, field trip.

- All right, we could go. We'll do a field trip. All right, Marissa Silva, thanks so much for joining us.