Wow. It’s been three whole years since I agreed to help out my friend Daniel Pickett set up a new site. And all I originally intended to do was just help design some stuff and then return to not updating ToyOtter.com. Ever since leaving RTM, I had decided to never run a big toy site again, since that experience (while rewarding) was incredibly tough to maintain such a high standard that we had set for ourselves.
But I ended up right back in the thick of things again in spite of myself. And I have to say that I’m pretty pleased with how it all turned out. I think it has been universally noticed that while we may not update every day (to save our sanity!) we do try and deliver solid content, without being a transparent grab for more ad hits. To be honest, we actually need to get better at the ad thing, as the site is starting to cost serious money! But I hope that goies to show that we do this for the love of toys, and our community, and not to try and scoop everyone all the time just to raise our traffic.
Speaking of raising traffic, though, boy howdy was I not expecting the incredible attention paid to my post about the never-produced Star Wars concepts! After a slow start, this thing just exploded across the web, eventually garnering mentions on Wired, Gizmodo, Geekologie, G4, The Official Star Wars Blog, Neatorama, Boing Boing, CNet, Fark, and many, many other blogs. Even crazier is that I ended up being interviewed about it on NPR by Alison Stewart. Click on the link above to listen to the segment. It was NPR’s second most emailed story for nearly a week (beaten out only by a story on Roasted Fish!)
I have to say that I never expected so many people to be so interested in this. I mean, I’ve been sitting on these for ten years, mainly because this has been my job every day since then. To me, it’s nothing special to have so many unproduced concepts, because my job was specifically to think of as many crazy ideas as I could, knowing that only one (at best) is going to be chosen. But reading comments from around the web, it’s obvious that these have struck a chord with not only Star Wars fans, but the general readership.
Why? Why do these real world items make a connection to the people who’ve seen them? Well, I think it’s for the same reason that AFI has built the following it has, and the same reasons that Apple stands out so much from the crowd along with Google and YouTube. It’s because when we were thinking of the concepts we tried less to think of "hey, that would be cool" and more along the lines of "what will people actually USE?"
It comes down to the end user, not the creator. Here is a really good link that breaks down what that really means. In all my work, I strive to think of the target audience first, not my personal tastes. I think that’s one reason that we have such nostalgia for the 70s & 80s toylines and even comics. It’s because the creators and designers were not trying to make art, or things that they were jazzed about seeing, but were trying to make what KIDS wanted. It’s why GI Joe Extreme tanked, but Power Rangers still is going strong.
And I think there are a lot of companies out there today that have this AMAZING resource (the internet) where you can get an aggregate reading of what most collectors truly want, and yet for the most part it is not only ignored, but disdained and mocked by them. I have to give crazy props here to guys like Jesse Falcon, the Four Horsemen, and the Mattel guys who haunt the forums. While they may not base all of their output on what the fans are asking for, they do actually listen to what is out there.
OK, that’s enough for today. I’m going to try and blog once a day for the whole week, and there are a lot of fun surprises hitting all week throughout the site, leading to NYCC at the end of the week where fans will really be blown away by what is coming in 2008! Stick around!