a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

Is Barbie toast?

Posted on the February 20th, 2008

 

Megan and her Webkinz “Henry”

Megan and her Webkinz “Henry”

Being classically blonde, with a perfect figure and limitless wardrobe just isn’t enough anymore, apparently, if you’re a doll (literally speaking).

According to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post, the affections of little girls are turning more and more these days to some virtual pets (with stuffed, plush real life doppelgangers) by the name of Webkinz (“A Virtual Popularity Contest – In the Online Playground, Barbie’s Doing the Chasing” by Annys Shin, Feb 19, 2008).

Last year the sales of Barbie doll products fell 15 percent, the article states, and the competition from Webkinz had something to do with that. The stuffed animals are marketed with their own digital “Webkinz World” where their owners can go online and play games, pretend shop and spend, and interact in cyberspace with friends.

What does this have to do with Barbie? Excerpt from the article:

“When you’re spending a lot of time [on Webkinz], you’re not spending four hours on Barbie dolls,” said Gerrick Johnson, a toy industry analyst with BMO Capital Markets.

As it happens this week we have house guests and one of them is Megan, an eight-year-old girl. When I mentioned the WaPo article and Webkinz to her parents during breakfast today, Megan’s face lit up as if it were the sun itself.

“Do you want to see Henry?” she squealed, and off she dashed to the bedroom, to return with one of the plush ones (see photo above).

Later I decided to do a little market research of my own so I asked Megan a few questions, the first one being if she had a Barbie doll.

“I have lots of Barbies but I never play with them,” she said, hugging “Henry” the Webkinz.

“Why?”

“She’s boring.”

Uh oh.

To read an article with more information about Webkinz and other virtual worlds now online for children , see a 2007 article from the New York Daily News here (“Webkinz: Big money lessons for little kids” by Elizabeth Lazarowitz).

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Virtual living: just playing dress-up, or more?

Posted on the January 8th, 2008

A peek at virtual living sites online, plus a deeper look at what it all means is offered in a recent video interview hosted by Ira Flatov, of ScienceFriday.com. Flatov talks to Sherry Turkle, director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. Turkle discusses some psychological aspects of living in virtual reality.

Also offering commentary in the video is Cory Ondrejka, former Chief Technology Officer at Linden Lab. Linden Lab created the popular Second Life virtual world website. Ondrejka talks about learning how to use virtual reality living as a way to communicate, and to connect more to the real world.

The video also features scenes from Flatov’s own visit to Second Life to meet listeners to his show.

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