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Stardoll by Barbie - The Future of Toys is Online
Stardoll by Barbie
As the father of two daughters, it is almost required that I learn about dolls. This is quite a stretch for me, as I was raised on GI Joe, and the only interaction I had with dolls was to make my soldiers kidnap and make their lives miserable. So color me surprised when I learned about Stardolls and their recent partnership with Barbie and Mattel. While the new Stardoll Barbies are not technically Barbies, the partnership between the two brands raises a larger question: Is the future of dolls, and toys in general, online and on a computer screen?
What are Stardolls?
Stardolls are based on the old fashioned concept of paper dolls. They exist online on the Stardolls website, and are marketed towards boys and girls, ages 9-17. While the original paper dolls were essentially two dimensional characters, I suppose it’s not a stretch that kids today would play with two dimensional dolls on a computer screen.
No matter how nuanced you make the visual graphics, the dolls onscreen remain almost one dimensional. While you can’t hold them in your hand, you can do much more with them than a piece of paper, and they could theoretically last forever. But that is not stopping 200,000 new visitors each month from decorating and dressing their dolls, and organizing fashion shows and clubs.
Through the Stardoll website, kids are given a profile page where they manage their dolls. This makes the experience much akin to Facebook and social networking in general. Founded in 2004 and making their first push in 2006, the company seems to be at the forefront of social trends for kids. Though not the first interactive “toy” to start online, think Webkinz and others, the company is reporting over 150 million users worldwide, which could make this the biggest developing trend in kids entertainment.
What is Stardoll Barbie?
The "Stardoll by Barbie" fashion dolls are not Barbies - something that is important. At first glance they look like Barbies, but it is clear that they are a higher quality of doll with more fashion and bling. With 8 dolls selling at $21 each, it seems like these could be one of the hottest toys for Christmas 2011.
What Does the Mattel Stardoll Partnership Mean?
It is no secret that Mattel and Barbie have not done many licensing deals in the past, preferring to stand alone as a powerhouse brand. This partnership suggests that Mattel sees something happening to the play habits of young girls. As they see their parents and grandparents spending so much time on Facebook and in front of a computer screen, it is only natural that they would want to follow. I see it in my own 6 year old daughter, who has become Internet and computer savvy herself.
Barbie appears to be trying to become a part of the online play world by using someone else’s foot to get in the door. This could also be a test to see how successful the idea is, possibly before trying their own online Barbie world. The joint effort also represents an effort by Stardoll to take their online-only characters and put them into a three dimensional world, and into the hands of little girls for Christmas. The founder of the company is known to have originally intended these to be toys, not online characters.
I see this as a no-lose proposition for Stardoll, and a potential negative for Barbie. Both brands, one which has been around for ages and the other probably desperate to stay relevant and not fade away, are teaming up to corner the market for mutual benefit.
Where is Stardoll Going?
In addition to their partnership with Mattel and Barbie, Stardoll has had agreements with brands like Sephora, DKNY, MaryKate and Ashley, ELLE, BabyPhat, and Kohl’s. It will be interesting to see if they avoid the backlash that faced brands like Bratz, which faced fire for marketing baby dolls who dressed like tramps and hookers, with too much makeup and too much attitude. The fact that Stardolls are meant to be models and fashionistas limits their narratives (you probably can’t have a ‘Doctor” Stardoll or “College Professor Stardoll,’ but maybe, who knows).
Should I Buy Stardoll for My Child?
My daughter is six, and seems to be below the intended age group for these dolls. Plus, I have not heard her mention them, which means her friends are probably not yet playing with them. I have no major desire for her to be on the cutting edge, so I may wait until she asks to use them. I am not quite comfortable with her networking online with people she cannot see.
Stardoll by Barbie seems like it could be the hot toy of Christmas 2011, so I may buy one of each to see if they become collectible. If not, I may be stuck with $160 in dolls that no one can play with.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Will You Be Buying a Stardoll Barbie This Year?
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