Mattel unveils Internet Barbie
NEW YORK -- Mattel Inc.'s Barbie is joining the Internet age.
The nation's number one toymaker yesterday unveiled Barbie Girls, a multi pronged brand that features a free website, BarbieGirls.com, that will allow children to create their own virtual characters, design their own room and try on clothes at a cyber mall. This summer, Mattel will introduce a Barbie-inspired handheld MP3 music device to interact with the website and unlock even more content.
Mattel hopes that by blending girls' love of music, fashion and the Internet, it will keep 10-year-old girls interested in the iconic name.
The launch of Barbie Girl is the latest effort by a toy company to make its brand more interactive with the Internet and reclaim children who are growing out of toys faster and seeking other play options, like online chatting and iPods. But industry specialists say the experience offered by Barbie Girls is much deeper than what's out there.
"It's a much richer experience" than highly popular toys like Gant's Webkinz, plush pets that come alive online with a secret password, said Chris Byrne, a New York toy consultant who was at the launch event.
Chuck Scothon, general manager and senior vice president of Mattel's brands, believes Barbie Girls is "revolutionizing" the way girls play. He added that it represents the first global online virtual world exclusively for girls.
The launch comes as Mattel has been making inroads in turning around sales of the iconic brand, hurt by fierce competition from MGA Entertainment's pouty Bratz dolls.