Toy catalogs for the holiday’s hottest gifts for kids of all ages begin planting seeds in the minds of the little ones early so that by Christmas there is an all out craze for some of the biggest fads of the season. It’s amazing how much children’s tastes have changed over the years, and it is sometimes hard to believe that a little more than half a century ago the most-wanted toys were Mr. Potato Head and Etch-A-Sketch. Today, kids want big ticket items under the tree on Christmas morning. Electronics, video game consoles, and iPads are some of the most requested gifts for kids these days. Still, there are plenty of hot ticket items that will have parents scrambling to shopping centers to fight other customers for the last one on the shelf. For those who aren’t fortunate enough to pay regular retail prices for the handful of toys on their kids’ wish lists, toys are auctioned off online for prices double, triple, or even quadruple the toy’s retail value. And many parents will pay the price to see their children’s faces light up as the special gift is unwrapped on Christmas morning.
Over the past decade, there have been some fun fads which have come and gone so quickly, many of us don’t remember them. Each year, there are somewhere around 20 thousand new toys introduced into the marketplace. But only a small portion of these will reach levels equivalent of a cultural phenomenon. While toy manufacturers market some toys directly as “hot toys”, whether or not a specific toy reaches the status of achieving a craze depends largely on consumer trends. Regardless, almost every holiday season brings with it a new “must have” toy for that year, leaving gift givers to scour store shelves, get into physical altercations over the last item on the shelf, and bring themselves to pay huge markups in the hopes of making their children’s Christmas wishes come true. Here are ten of the hottest toy trends over the past decade.
2003–Hokey Pokey Elmo
Elmo has long been the sweetheart of Sesame Street, and Elmo dolls have in the past several decades often topped the must-have toy list. The first, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996, led to insane markups on dolls for those lucky enough to find them in the store. The Hokey Pokey Elmo took the lovable, giggly personality of the Tickle Me Elmo one step further–motorized to sing and dance, Hokey Pokey Elmo would sing faster and faster, daring toddlers to keep up and dance with him. Preschoolers in 2003 were less likely to be doing the Macarena, the year’s most popular dance craze, as they were to putting their hand in and shaking it all about. Originally priced around $25, some were selling on auction sites and in newspapers upwards of $300. The Elmo dolls continued to be hot selling items over the years, but in 2008, the Elmo fad began to fade, much to the delight of many parents who found Elmo’s squeaky voice and constant singing to be quite irritating–particularly when played over and over and over and over again. The irritating singsong voice of Hokey Pokey Elmo can now be found on websites for under $15.
2004–Cabbage Patch Kids & V-Smile Video Game
Plug in video games, as well as some parent’s childhood favorites made a comeback in the 2004 holiday shopping season. Cabbage Patch Kids were a big ticket item in 2004, though nothing like when they first made their debut in 1983. Just over 20 years later, Cabbage Patch Kids hit retail stores once again, ready to be adopted by new children. The V-Smile video game system by V-Tech was also a hot holiday toy in 2004, retailing for around $60. The simple electronic video game system was geared toward children between the ages of 3-7. Large buttons and an easy-to-maneuver joystick made it an instant success with kids and topped many pre-schoolers’ and elementary schoolers’ Christmas lists that year.
The new gaming console developed by Microsoft took the regular xbox and turned it into a device that was internet capable, encouraging online game play among people all over the world. The Xbox 360 featured an interactive dashboard which allowed users to create their own unique gamer profiles and keep track of the games they had played. Although Microsoft vowed to avoid scarcity of the platform for the holidays, they still were unable to meet the demands of holiday shoppers hoping to put an xbox 360 underneath the Christmas tree. Orders for the Xbox 360 were so extensive, there was no way to put any on the shelves of stores until well after the new year. Although the regular retail price for the gaming system was $299.99, Toys R Us offered premium bundles for $1000 on their shelves, some resourceful Xbox 360 hunters went as far as to go to Japan in order to obtain one of the highest rated gaming platforms in history.
2006–Sony Playstation 3
Sony Playstation 3was another gaming platform hugely popular and in high demand for the 2006 Christmas season. It tried to piggyback on the success of the xbox 360 the previous year, and aimed to draw in buyers who were undecided between the Microsoft gaming platform and Sony’s. In 2006, the PS3 was retailing for $399.99.
Nintendo Wii took the gaming population by storm when it debuted in 2006. It quickly became another must-have item for everybody’s Christmas lists, and appealed to all age ranges. Another holiday favorite of this year was the iPod Touch ($299). In 2007 this was Apple’s first touchscreen music player that allowed wireless accessibility to the Apple Store. The Nintendo Wii vowed to get people up off their couches in order to get active and play games using their bodies. It was a big success, and in the winter of 2006, the Nintendo Wii was hard to come by.
Another Elmo to make the top toys of the decade–Elmo Live. The furry, red, squeaky-voiced Elmo performed a variety of acts from joke telling to singing. He would stand up, sit down, cross his legs, and dance. The Elmo Live didn’t cause as many in-store brawls as previous Elmo dolls, and he appeared to be losing steam. However, Elmo Live retailed for around $60 during the 2008 Holiday season.
2009–Zhu Zhu Pets
Zhu Zhu Pets made the list of the hottest toys of the decade. This robotic pets resembled a hamster both in appearance and behavior, but was considered friendly and cleaner. Parents loved the surge toward the small, robotic hamsters, as they only cost around $10. However, some avid collectors would pay upwards of $50 for a particular robotic hamster under the tree.
Microsoft felt the pressure to produce an interactive gaming device that would compete with the Nintendo Wii. The Xbox Kinect was revealed shortly before the start of the holiday season in 2010. Many people took to the it as a better, sleeker way to play interactive video games. The sensor bar worked with an existing xbox 360, eliminating the need to buy a whole new console. No bulky remotes or awkward sensors were needed, instead the Kinect sensor read body movement and outline to take interactive play to a whole new level. It hit the market retailing at $199.99.
2011–LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet
As tech gifts have been targeting younger and younger audiences, LeapFrog developed a tablet that is suitable for kids. Kids can connect to WiFi and play games, all while learning. In the winter of 2011, the LeapFrog LeapPad Explorer Learning Tablet was the item that had shoppers trampling one another to get the last one on the shelves. Retailing for $99, many parents found themselves paying upwards of $300 in order to get their hands on one of these kid-friendly tablets in time for Christmas.
The furry little robots first hit the market in 1998 with moderate success. They were revamped and marketed again in 2012 with a variety of colors and personalities. Furby began by speaking “Furbish”, but as it is played with, fed, and talked to, it begins to speak English. The interactive toy can be used with an iPhone or Droid app, allowing Furby to be fed and cared for. Many retailers, as well as online retailers, sold Furby for $60, but certain colored Furbies were sold out completely, selling for several hundred dollars on online auctions.
2013–Xbox One – Play Station 4
This season’s hottest toy is once again a gaming platform. Microsoft has developed a new gaming platform–the Xbox One. The xbox one takes the 360 even further, acting much like a computer. Better graphics and more interactive online game play are featured on the xbox one. Preorders began in September for delivery in November, but most stores have completely sold out of the platform, putting them on backorder until June of 2014 in some regions. The new gaming platform is expected to outsell Sony’s Playstation 4, and is retailing for $499.99. On Black Friday this year, there were several reports of people being shot in order to obtain the last xbox one, and many are selling on eBay for over $1,200.
PlayStation 4 (PS4) is an 8th generation Sony Computer Entertainment video game console. The console was announced as the official PlayStation 3 successor on 20th February 2013. The video game console was officially launched for the first time on 15th November 2013 in North America and 29th November 2013 in Europe and Australia. The video game console is yet to be released in countries like; UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The official release date in these 3 countries is 13th December 2013. The last official release will be on 22nd February 2014 in Japan.
PlayStation 4 is competing head to head with Microsoft’s Xbox One which has already been launched in 21 markets worldwide. The official release date for the Xbox One was 22nd November 2013. Clearly both consoles are set to compete fiercely given the fact that they are expected to be the most sought after 8th generation game consoles in the market this festive season. Although there are other 8th generation game consoles in the market currently like Nintendo’s Wii U, the stiffest competition is expected to be between Xbox One and PlayStation 4
Some of the most notable PlayStation 4 features include; a more common processor (AMD) which is aimed at attracting many developers as well as support for the system. Sony’s main intention with the PS4 is social game play incorporating special buttons i.e. a share button on the PS4 controller which allows in-game play views streamed live from other gamers. The console also has features allowing interactivity with other devices and services through methods like Gaikai; a cloud based gaming service. The console also features a special app for enhancing game play using tablets and Smartphones as a 2nd screen.
The PS4 price varies depending on location i.e. $399 in the U.S., 399 Euros in Europe, $549 in Australia and £349 in the United Kingdom. It is important to note that shortages are expected in the festive season because pre-order sales were taken up immediately when the console’s waiting list opened worldwide in August 2013. The console is already sold out in many game console stores worldwide. This explains why the price of the console has soared to over $500 in online stores like eBay.
The shift in the types of hot toys has run the gamut from plush dolls to tech gifts. The trends in hot holiday gifts tend to match the state of the economy. In the past decade, the hottest gifts during the hardest times in the U.S. economy have tended to be less expensive gifts like Zhu Zhu pets and plush interactive toys. As the economy grows, the hottest gifts tend to lean more toward gaming consoles and tech toys and gifts. The hottest gifts in the past decade run the gamut from preschool toys to toys and systems for people of all ages. It will be interesting to see what the hottest gifts of the next decade will be!
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