Saturday, 29 January 2011

Opinion: Secrets Revealed

Originally I was going to keep this blog purely for reviews, but I thought I'd try a small experiment and branch out a little.

This week, as most people probably don't know, was the UK Toy Fair in London.  This was for industry insiders (eg the people who work for Toys R Us) to have a nosey at what the toys manufacturers are hoping will sell like Furby this year. This is all well and good, I'm sure many other industries have similar fairs.  The problem is with a toy fair that there are a lot of people (adults) who collect toys and want a peek at what they'll be able to spend their hard-earned cash on soon.

There is a problem.

In America, a lot of toy reveals are made at NYCC or SDCC - big conventions that are open to the public.  There are industry-only ones too, but few of the BIG toys are shown there. People are, therefore, used to having photos of the new toys appearing on websites 10 seconds after the shows open.

This isn't the situation for the UK Toy Fair.  Here there are big signs up banning photos.  Some, such as Doctor Who figures, are probably due to restrictions placed by the BBC who don't want the new episodes being spoiled before they're shown.  I suspect that another reason is that all the BIG stuff is always shown at an American show and will get the most press if shown there for the first time.


It is the 21st Century. Every man and his dog carries a mobile phone on them.  99% of phones these days take photos, if not videos and access to the internet too. Phones are currently as big as someone's fingernail.  It is therefore inevitable - especially when people who run toy websites are invited - that photos will end up on the internet.

As is what happened this week.

Everyone knew a new ThunderCats cartoon was coming, but after someone took a bunch of photos of the new toys and put them on the internet, an 'official' photo was released.

It's no good clamping down on sites who host the images because as soon as they're up, they're everywhere. Thousands of people will have right-clicked and saved them to their hard drives.  These days the secrets of the X-Files would have been all over wikileaks and Mulder & Scully could have dedicated their time to matters other than wandering about in the dark.

Speaking of wikileaks, it's a very good example of how you can't silence the internet these days. If the full force of the American government can't shut that down, then you don't stand a chance getting rid of some toy photos.

Even if they could successfully enforce the 'no photos' rule, there was nothing stopping very detailed descriptions to be put online.

If you want to keep something secret these days you can't show or tell anyone. Signs just aren't going to cut it, I'm afraid.

It's similar to all the Masters of the Universe Classics exclusive reveals in (the now cancelled) ToyFare magazine. It really won't sell any extra copies of the magazine because as soon as the issue with pictures of the new figure go on sale they're all over the internet. Not, as it turns out, on toy sites (as Mattel Legal throw a fit), but instead people post them on Mattel's own Facebook page for all to see.

What am I saying? Well, I guess I'm saying that instead of letting NYCC have all the big news (which is probably where the ThunderCats are going to be officially outed), why not let the UK have a share?

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