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  • Writer's pictureSaar van Ommen

On its 50th Birthday Playmobil Turns Over a New Leaf; They Will Make Figures for Adults


This week, during their 50th birthday celebration, Playmobil announced that they will start producing more toys marketed toward adults, but nostalgia alone may not be enough to keep adults engaged.


For years Playmobil has been struggling with declining sales. In October, their German parent company, Horst Brandstätter Group, cut 700 jobs. Now they hope to turn the tide by appealing to an adult customer base.


Nostalgia


Many adults now think about Playmobil with nostalgia. “Me and my brother could come home and create our own entire world for three hours,” says Niamh Munglani, 25. “With digital play, the world is created for you. I don’t know if that means there is less imagination.”


She remembers the characters she used to play with well. “They all had that sharp little bob. It wasn’t a Bob more of a Robert.”


Still, Niamh would not consider buying new Playmobil products now. “All the Playmobil I used to play with probably still exists. I would just play with those,” she says. “There are already so many plastic toys, those will exist forever.”



“Playmobil Is a One-and-Done Toy”


Still, other toy companies do not seem to have this problem. Lego, Playmobil’s biggest competitor, has a large adult customer base and their overall revenue is twelve times that of Playmobil.


For fans, the appeal of Lego is that the toy is endlessly versatile, a characteristic that Playmobil lacks.


“Lego is compatible with many other types of Lego in itself, you can get the more technical pieces like the motorized pieces and they still match,” says Tudor Stefan, 22, “Whereas Playmobil is a one-and-done toy that you can’t really mix and match with anything else.”


Tudor has always been a big fan of Lego. He used to be known as ‘the Lego kid’ in his class, but he also remembers playing with a Playmobil pirate in the sink.


But because of Lego’s flexibility, it overshadowed Playmobil over time. “I know hats and capes are interchangeable so you can make a pirate-astronaut for example, but that is kind of where it stops.”


New Characters and Mature Themes


Tudor does think that certain mature themes or personalities from history could cater more to an adult audience. This is exactly what Playmobil is planning to do.


Inspired by the success of the 2015 release of the figure of the protestant Martin Luther, which is still their most-sold product, the company is hoping to produce more historic and popular characters. For example, they are collaborating with the German football team and have announced the release of Jack and Rose from The Titanic.


But the idea does not appeal to Djamé, 25, who grew up loving Playmobil. She can understand that people would want miniature versions of their favourite celebrities, but she personally isn’t a big fan of anybody.


For her, the appeal of Playmobil is that you are able to create your own world. "What I like about it is not the little figures but the houses, the tiny cups and plates, and the furniture."

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