Author Topic: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL  (Read 35214 times)

Offline Richard

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WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« on: March 14, 2008, 20:29:51 »


What's wrong with Playmobil ... ???

Now that Hans Beck has retired, does Playmobil have any design leadership?

As we all know, Playmobil is a TOY for children. We also know that Playmobil must make money for Geobra, or they will NOT stay in business !!!

I'm sure that most of us would agree that it makes GOOD SENSE for any company to have products that result in related sales. Playmobil's castles and "add-on" sections are a good example of how Playmobil has taken advantage of related sales.

So ... WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL ?

Two fairly new sets are currently available from Playmobil.

One set seems to make very good "marketing sense" with an eye to "related sales."

The other set seems to have been designed by some very narrow-minded isolationists without any regard at all for the rest of Playmobil's product line.

The first new set, 4133 see attachment, is a set that can be added to, or expanded with any Steck System castle (too bad Steck System castles are no longer in production).

The second new set, 4294 see attachment, is a set that can't be added to, or expanded with either Steck System or System-X! (Actually, when you look at it, it could have easily been designed with existing Steck System pieces and a few (what could have been) very nice additions to Steck System.

So, what we have now is mostly a frustrating mish-mash of incompatible pieces that is actually losing money for Geobra from the children, parents and collectors who would like to buy more Playmobil to add to and expand their Playmobil "construction" sets.

So ... WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL ?

The design and marketing departments seem to be suffering from a lack of direction, vision, management and leadership!

PLAYMOBIL WAKE UP ... YOU'RE LOSING BUSINESS (MONEY) !!!

Offline playmofire

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2008, 21:43:13 »

Two fairly new sets are currently available from Playmobil.

One set seems to make very good "marketing sense" with an eye to "related sales."

The other set seems to have been designed by some very narrow-minded isolationists without any regard at all for the rest of Playmobil's product line.

The first new set, 4133 see attachment, is a set that can be added to, or expanded with any Steck System castle (too bad Steck System castles are no longer in production).

4133 is a Superset and I think it is not so much a base to be built on by creating a new larger structure through adding more Steck parts to it as an introduction or addition to Playmobil which can be added to by buying related sets or other Playmobil products.  I think this is the philosophy behind all the Supersets.

The second new set, 4294 see attachment, is a set that can't be added to, or expanded with either Steck System or System-X! (Actually, when you look at it, it could have easily been designed with existing Steck System pieces and a few (what could have been) very nice additions to Steck System.

I think here the design brief has been to design a lighthouse and that's largely the end result, and a pretty good result I think.   And lighthouses are usually stand alone buildings.
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Offline Martin Milner

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2008, 21:48:34 »
To play a little Devil's  >:D advocate, Richard, I chose not to buy the 4113 Castle Super Set when I saw it on the shelves, but plan to buy the 4294 Spanish Lighthouse when it's available in the UK.

The Castle Starter set gives me 4 figures I already have, a Big Bertha mortar which I really don't like (I'd far rather have a normal cannon) and which is an anachronism in the Knights theme, and another bit of small castle I can't connect to anything because I don't have Steck. I already have enough system-x castle pieces to create 5 or 6 decent sized castles in System X, plus a couple of take-away castles. The last thing I need is yet another castle.

The Spanish Lighthouse gives me a base for the new Conquistadores to garrison, and one thing the pirate theme has been sadly lacking is a proper shore facility for the pirates to sail to and attack. The 3112 Naval Stronghold, 3288 Prison and the like are just too small and  OK, so it doesn't expand. How big does a lighthouse need to be? I haven't got my hands on one yet, but I don't think the lack of expandability will be a problem for me.

With a Spanish ship and the new 4-man rowing boats to carry the Incan gold to and from the Lighthouse/castle, I've got a story. I've only got so much table or floorspace to play on - even my parents' garden would be small in terms of a real naval battle, so I don't really want to expand the lighthouse.

With the lighthouse as it is, I could have one either side of a bay defending a Spanish town, with the pirate ship, or a Royal Navy ship, attacking.

I agree that with the Hans Beck's retirement some design aspects seem to be slipping, but I wouldn't have chosen these sets as the examples. I'm more concerned by the Fisher Price colours of the new pirate ship, and the fantasy direction the knights have taken.

I think Beck's great success was because he watched children at play, and then designed true-to-life models of real worlds for their imaginations to roam free with.

Offline Richard

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2008, 22:37:27 »


Hello, Gordon and Martin ...

4133 is a Superset and I think it is not so much a base to be built on by creating a new larger structure through adding more Steck parts to it as an introduction or addition to Playmobil which can be added to by buying related sets or other Playmobil products.

I think here the design brief has been to design a lighthouse (4294) and that's largely the end result, and a pretty good result I think.   And lighthouses are usually stand alone buildings.


To play a little Devil's  >:D advocate, Richard, I chose not to buy the 4113 Castle Super Set when I saw it on the shelves, but plan to buy the 4294 Spanish Lighthouse when it's available in the UK.

The Spanish Lighthouse gives me a base for the new Conquistadores to garrison ...  OK, so it doesn't expand. How big does a lighthouse need to be? I haven't got my hands on one yet, but I don't think the lack of expandability will be a problem for me.


Your comments will no doubt be music to the ears of those who reside in the Klicky Towers of Zirndorf!

And, if everyone feels the same way ... then that might possibly be the beginning of the end of Playmobil as a construction toy.

But, was Playmobil really ever designed to be a construction toy?

The little Klickys were never designed to easily come apart for customizing. The original western houses were totally incompatible with Steck. And, Steck is totally incompatible with System-X. And, the new sets seem to be more and more just stand alone and completely incompatible with everything.

So, maybe it was just me who enjoyed hours upon hours of building village upon village and castle upon castle with my beloved Steck System ... ;)


All the best,
Richard





Offline playmofire

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 23:01:06 »
Well, it depends what you mean by "incompatible", Richard.  Items may be incompatible in that they cannot be physically joined with another item, e.g. Steck and System-X, but they may be compatible in that they can be used with each other.  Taking 4133 as an example, I have it on my "possibly to buy list", even though my theme is fire and rescue.  Get rid of the mortar and the figures, add a tall flagpole and one or two of the DS cannon, or even the old cannon from the 3750 ship, and you have the perfect centre piece for a park in a modern town.  In addition, the opportunity for an unusual emergency for the rescue services - a small child with its head stuck in a canon muzzle.

And see what Little Jo did with the same set:

http://www.playmofriends.com/forum/index.php?topic=975.15
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Offline cachalote

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2008, 23:34:01 »
lego is (or was) a construction toy.
meccano is also (or was also) a construction toy.
the way i see it, both these companies started up with an "abstract" aproach to construction.
this enabled anyone who had parts to assemble them in multiple ways.
they have now turned to a more "figurative" concept.
kids (and adults) can no longer build schematic constructions and are forced to accept the "look-a-like" look available.
profits are not what they used to be...  :'(

playmobil started from the begining with a "figurative" design in their toys.
as years go by, the figures got a lot of different colors and shapes, improving their "figurativeness".
the same, in a way, happened to the buildings.
keeping this design concept clear enabled geobra to continue to make money.  :)

if you look at the 7718 ds se, you can see that it has an unfinished side that seems to need an attachment (we can almost see it in the picture below, on the left).
but this seem to be an exception in the pirate world (the only one i really know).
most of the other constructions stand completed by themselves.

i agree with richard, that some sort of "multiple-joining" could add an extra value to some sets.
but if you do this without a state of the art design, there is a big risk that playmo-personality could be lost.
i think it can be done, tipically on beaches, if their contours can be made with peripherical detachable pieces that allow to add (when removed) another beach from another set.
letting ds parts do the business is not something the all world can do (i can't in portugal) and is probably not a good idea.

copying playmobil "figurative" qualities and meccano "spacial-structureness" made lego loose its personality.
to achieve full add-another-set-add-a-thousand-more concept, playmobil would have to turn fully modular.
are we ready for it?  ???
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Offline Richard

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2008, 03:53:38 »


Hello, Gordon and Cachalote ...


Well, it depends what you mean by "incompatible", Richard.  Items may be incompatible in that they cannot be physically joined with another item, e.g. Steck and System-X, but they may be compatible in that they can be used with each other.


... to achieve full add-another-set-add-a-thousand-more concept, playmobil would have to turn fully modular.
are we ready for it?  ???



From what everyone has written thus far, it would appear that Playmobil might really understand their customers!

It seems that Playmobil customers may be more interested in simply accepting a "finished" product rather than "creating" their own.

Of course there are those wonderful exceptions, as Gordon reminded us about Little Jo, who placed disparate parts together to produce his beautiful lighthouse!

So, exceptions aside, is it true then that most of us are really happy with Playmobil's current trend of producing many stand alone products that once snapped together ... stay together?

And, will Playmobil eventually abandon their System-X and any future attempt at becoming a construction toy? Or, as Cachalote asked, "Are any of us really ready for Playmobil to turn to fully modular?"

Maybe another question might be, "Do any of us (including Geobra) ever want Playmobil to become a fully modular construction toy?"

All the best,
Richard


Offline Martin Milner

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2008, 07:33:57 »
Chachalote made the very good point that Lego and Meccano are construction toys from the initial concept, but Playmobil was designed to be focussed on the figures from the very outset.

Adult collectors round the world, with the luxury of large disposable income, have created wonderful massive constructions with Playmobil - the River Steamboat, the train station, and any number of customised castles all come to mind - but are most children interested in using Playmobil in this fashion?

I find the construction part of a set tedious. It's worse with system-x than with steck, because even before clipping the parts together you've got to clip the clips into the parts for 30 minutes or more, and with many sets I've grabbed out the klickies and dressed them up, and left the building construction till later, if at all.

When I had Playmobil as a child, and I played actively with Playmobil for 5-6 years, I never had any buildings or vehicles. Just figures, horses, and lots of accessories. My castles were stacks of books, the space under the bed a pirate's treasure cave, cardboard boxes were western buildings. There's a couple of young guys over on Playmoboard, Pedroskivich, and his friend Nate, who aged 13 are still doing just this, and having great medieval battles.

Even now when I have the luxury of money to buy the big expensive building sets and vehicles, I still get more pleasure from setting up the figures than creating a custom building. I think most parents don't buy endless add-on sets for their children to construct ever larger buildings. One or two buildings as a centrepiece and a few figures to play out a story, and that's your lot, son.

The desire to construct custom buildings, and thus the need for a modular building system into which everything must fit, is not something I think children want from Playmobil. They could get that from Lego (and don't forget, children are quite happy to mix and match toy brands far more then we blinkered adults).

I would be happy to see an truly modular building system as part of the current range, preferably in steck, with parts available as add-ons to expand. I'd like to see castle parts made in the same pale limestone colour as the lighthouse, so we coud have some Caribbean forts, and new pieces like a pepperpot sentry box, so we can make those forts more realistically represent to the originals; not just in the Caribbean as we've seen, but around the Mediterranean and the Holy Land limestone would be better than the light and dark greys of the current castles. Let's also red brick so we can build Chinese castles.

While all this would be wonderful, and the adult market might snap these ideas up, I don't think the vast majority of the Playmobil using public - the under 13s, would be bothered with such things. The ranges are designed with one large central set (if you're the lucky child of rich parents), and various smaller sets at a range of prices to round out the theme.

So to return to the Lighthouse set, this is the initial centre piece of a currently small sub-theme to the pirate world. If it sells, then maybe there'll be a bigger fort for the Conquistadores to defend - or maybe we'll have the Conquistadores set out into the South American jungles and discover the Incan and Aztec temples..

Offline Timotheos

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2008, 11:52:08 »
I support you, Richard.

I think Playmobil at two periods in its existence (steck and System X) had conceived an interchangeable construction environment to go with the interchangeability of its klicky accessories.

I argue that modularity was a feather in its cap.
If you wanted a finished product, you had it.
But if you wanted to mix and match, you had that too.

Steck and System X were working, so I don't see how PM can lightly abandon a design concept (modularity) that most toy systems recognize as beneficial.  Possibly the fact parents were complaining about how easily System X fell apart was a problem.  I think System X was too complex--whereas lego blocks are intuitive and steck pieces had clear connection points, System X requires more foresight (and work) to engineer new things from old things (granted, any six year old can handle it if they don't mind that funky screwdriver tool).

Stand by your guns, Richard!  (I'll stand by them too).  If Playmobil scraps its modularity in favor of Hasbro-style Star Wars buildings it will be losing a piece of its pie.  Again, the possibility that not every child cares about modularity isn't grounds to get rid of it.  Refer to Playmoboard for the endless topics on kids and parents designing elaborate steck castles.  When PM starts trimming the "value-added" features for cold, fast minimums, the trimming won't stop there (already it over-does it with the paint; I should have the option to remove a legionnaire's breast plate; formerly removable breastplates was the norm).

Speaking of PM failings, check out the post on Playmoboard about the fiasco involving our swap of Roman's with painted shoulders. 

I'll detail in a separate thread here.
-Tim





Offline playmofire

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Re: WHAT'S WRONG WITH PLAYMOBIL
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2008, 13:52:47 »
Maybe, though, we already have a suggestion of where Playmobil might be heading, at least in the modern themes:

http://www.playmofriends.com/forum/index.php?topic=1933.0

As for the fiasco over the exchange of the Romans, that's hardly Playmobil Germany's fault. rather Playmobil USA.
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