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Top 10 Web Play Dolls and Plush From Toy Fair 2008

My picks for the top 10 Web Play dolls and plush for 2008.

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You can blame Webkinz, but dolls and plush that have an interactive web component were ubiquitous at Toy Fair 2008. It seems that every toymaker is now trying to produce a product that marries the real world of dolls and plush to the online world. Of course, not all Web Play dolls and plush work--a clear vision, great programmers, and lots of money are needed to build an engaging web site, and the doll or plush needs to be appealing and well made as well. Here are the products that (mostly) got it right--my top 10 picks for Web Play dolls and plush for 2008.

1. Webkinz

Webkinz
(c) Ganz, Inc.
Although not the first virtual pet site, Webkinz is the number one site that has successfully married real world plush animals to their online world and counterparts. For those that don’t know, to enter the world of Webkinz, you buy a plus pet from approximately $9 to $15, and then adopt the same pet virtually at www.webkinz.com . You can dress your pet, feed it, play games with it, and decorate it’s very charming little house. The site is hugely addictive, and extremely successful, and it may single-handedly be responsible for the explosion of the Web Play category for dolls and plush!

2. Barbie Girls

Barbie Girls Online
(c) 2008 Denise Van Patten
Here is another online doll site that got off to a shaky start, but is really putting it together in 2008. Some of the initial styles of Ty Girlz were disliked by some parents because the parents felt that they had too much of a worldly, jaded look (some said they looked too much like Bratz dolls). So, the Girlz had a makeover both online and offline. They are much more demure now, both in makeup and clothing. One big plus is that the site is easily accessible (buy doll, get code, no USB attachment needed). The games on this site are fun, and the dress-up is too. I was a bit amused by being told online recently that my Ty Girlz needed to eat more vegetables!

3. Be-Bratz

Be-Bratz
(c) MGA Entertainment, Inc.
Bratz was nowhere to be found at Toy Fair this year, which was upsetting since I would have liked to have an update on their Be-Bratz web site. I actually spent some time in New York at the Toys R Us in Times Square looking for the Be-Bratz doll package (you need the doll and the USB connector to get site access) but couldn’t find it. Some parents have reported technical problems with the site (it doesn’t work with Vista, the site was overloaded on Christmas) but overall, the site looks like fun for fans of the Bratz, with opportunities to style and dress your virtual Bratz, and games to play.

4. Neopets

Neopets is the forerunner to Webkinz. Actually, Neopets is a much larger and more engrossing virtual world than Webkinz, with many more games to play as well as houses to decorate, and pets to dress, but…and this is important…they didn’t make very successful connections to their real-world plush and products and their virtual world. However, at Toy Fair this year, JAKKS Pacific previewed a new line of Neopets plush and toys that will interface with the new Neopets Key Quest multi-player game. Generally, however, the site can be enjoyed for free, as it is advertiser-supported.

5. Shining Stars

Shining Stars is Russ Berrie’s answer to Webkinz. The Shining Stars are nice quality plush with a code that allows you to go online to the International Star Registry and name an actual star in the sky. Additionally, there is a site with limited play features. Later this year, Shining Stars will unveil a major re-vamp of the site which they are calling 2-D plus, which will improve the art work on the site and add interactive features. Many of the web play products discussed here are really in their infancy; people forget that Webkinz was around for two years before it really took off.

6. Ty Girlz

Ty Girlz
(c) 2008 Denise Van Patten
Here is another online doll site that got off to a shaky start, but is really putting it together in 2008. Some of the initial styles of Ty Girlz were disliked by some parents because the parents felt that they had too much of a worldly, jaded look (some said they looked too much like Bratz dolls). So, the Girlz had a makeover both online and offline. They are much more demure now, both in makeup and clothing. One big plus is that the site is easily accessible (buy doll, get code, no USB attachment needed). The games on this site are fun, and the dress-up is too. I was a bit amused by being told online recently that my Ty Girlz needed to eat more vegetables!

7. Groovy Girls RSVP

GroovyGirlsRSVP.com is the latest entry into the Web Play dolls arena. This product was just announced at Toy Fair 2008, and the site isn’t even up yet (the URL defaults to the regular Groovy Girls web site. The site is highly anticipated by the Groovy Girl doll owners. This doll will be similar to Ty Girlz in that the doll will come with a code for online access. The site is supposed to be an “online party” for Groovy Girls, but there is little other information currently available for this site which will debut in 2008.

8. Kookeys

Kookeys is a new plush line from 10 Voxx entertainment. I almost hate to say it…but here is another web play product that has had serious growing pains! The site wasn’t ready on time, and in its infancy crashed regularly. Just today, the site crashed my browser (I visited each site that I’m mentioning in this article today, Kookeys is the only one that crashed me). I also think the site is a bit short on content and engrossing games. On the plus side, the site is well animated and the most appropriate plush and web site of all profiled here for very small children.

9. Ty 2.0

I don’t have very much to tell you about Ty 2.0 except to tell you that it is brand new, creates a virtual world for Beanie Babies, and that I took a tour of it at Toy Fair. My initial impression is that this is a relatively simple site, and is well-suited for smaller children, as well as Beanie Baby fans. I don’t like the concept of earning “beans” and flags instead of a currency that is usable in the Ty 2.0 world, and I hope that the product developers rethink this portion of the product. One big plus is the very inexpensive purchase that is needed to access the site—I believe the Ty 2.0 Beanies are just slightly more expensive than the original Beanies, at approximately $6.99 each.

10. StarDoll

Stardolls claims 14 million members. That’s quite a few people who are interested in playing with online paper dolls! The site, www.stardolls.com, has some paper dolls available for free, but full access to the site’s features, paper dolls and Me Dolls costs $5.95 per month. Paper dolls include those of many celebrities (mostly those that appeal to a teenage and tween audience) as well as paper dolls showcasing various styles (Goth, anyone?). This site is completely virtual and not tied to a product line.

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