Mattel CEO Bob Eckert picks his favorite toy

Mattel CEO Bob Eckert

I thought this was an interesting press event. The CEO of Mattel, Bob Eckert,  would announce his favorite pick of the newly rolled out toys at Toy Fair.  Seemed almost like being asked to pick a favorite child.  How do you decide such a thing? A gut instinct? A favorite brand team? The size of the marketing budget?

I gave this some thought after we were told of the event yesterday (it happened today). Mind you, we don’t have any budgets on the line when we pick our top winners of the year. Yet both Joanne and I have personal favorites – we quietly root for them as we send them off to our family testers.  Even though we don’t make or sell any of the toys we review, we do get very attached.  Each year we have a few that truly stand out, but one?  Almost impossible.

So what did I think Mr. Eckert would select? My money would have been on the harmonizing Singamajigs, the Dancing Mickey Mouse or the big Ape that flips –both had the most “sizzle” in the showroom.  (Mickey also has Donny Osmond associated with him.)  Or maybe the Barbie that is a video camera – she wins for having the most creatively placed use of technology in toyland (the camera is in her chest).

I was wrong. Mr. Eckert’s personal favorite is their new preschool electronic toy called iXL.  The hand-held toy promises to have six-in-one smart devices designed to both be educational and entertaining (including a Story Book, Game Player, Note book, Art Studio, Music Player and Photo Album). It will retail for $79.99/ licensed software sold separately for $24.99.

We’ll be interested to see how our testers react to the iXL.  It will be available in July.  The thing with these types of toys -  it’s hard to tell from the prototypes how they’re going to work in the hands of kids.  Will the screen be engaging enough? Will the games be age appropriate? Can kids manipulate the toy independently and happily? If you give your child this $79 toy, will they leave your iPhone alone? These are the types of things we’ll look at when reviewing the  iXL.

Not to be cynical as to the driving force of his pick,  but Mr. Eckert did mention in his release that  “[they] have invested more research and development dollars into iXL than any other product in our 2010 Fisher-Price product line and it definitely shows.”

Stay tuned.