What hath Webkinz
wrought? When this plucky line of stuffed animals launched in 2005, it had a unique feature: Each creature (like the goldfish above) comes with a code that unlocks its virtual doppelgänger in the Webkinz.com online world. Two million-plus toy sales later, the value of the Webkinz brand is pegged at $2 billion
, and industry stalwarts are releasing their own playthings with one fin in meatspace and another in the ether.
Virtual Interactive Pets
Hasbro has built a new virtual world to go with its Littlest Pet Shop
line. Each furry has a code in its collar that lets you enter the site, where you can earn Kibbles to buy furniture or gardening supplies for your pet's online pad.
Disney is introducing a line of Tinker Bell-branded, RFID-embedded "eJewelry." The centerpiece is a USB jewelry box that plugs into your PC. When girls wave their Friendship eBracelet or Pixie eCharms near the box, it will unlock items in the Pixie Hollow online world.
World of Cars
Next year, Disney will roll out a Web site based on the Pixar flick Cars
. A series of die-cast Hot Wheels-style toys will come with a "race card" granting online access to special tracks and virtual upgrades.
Any gal who bought a Barbie MP3 player can plug it into a PC and log on to unlock VIP content on BarbieGirls.com
(others can pay $6 a month). VIP avatars can be distinguished from commoners by their sparkly tiaras.
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