Portable Video Games A Hot Yule Ticket

Posted: November 22, 1989

Toys may be kid stuff, but they're big business at Christmas time.

"That's when retailers do 60 percent to 70 percent of their year's business," said David Miller, president of the Toy Manufacturers of America. This year, TMA projects that holiday sales will be up 5 percent from last year for non-video games and 3.5 percent for video games.

"So far, there doesn't seem to be any breakaway best seller," said Miller. "But in the end, the public decides. Lots of items are getting attention."

The biggest attention-getter so far is Game Boy, the new portable video game from Nintendo, retailing at about $89. Industry insiders said that shortages could develop, which would make it one of the year's most requested items.

"It's a marketing strategy," said one analyst.

"It's been selling well, but Nintendo will not have the quantity to meet the demand," said Marvin Katz, chief operating officer of Lionel's Kiddie City. "They are shipping less than 1 million pieces, and it will be sold out early."

A spokeswoman at Toys 'R' Us, however, said the store has had Game Boy in stock since September and expected to have enough for the holiday season.

Atari's Lynx, another new portable video set, which will be available in

December for about $150, could give Game Boy a lot of competition, retailers said, because it is in color, while Game Boy is black and white.

Other important video games include the new 16-bit systems available in Sega's Genesis and NEC's Turbo Grafx 16, which retail from $189 to $200 and feature better graphics than earlier models.

Other new toys are predicted to be hot, including the superfast 5 1/2-inch battery-operated cars, selling for $8 to $10, which have been popular in Japan. Kids can customize them with their own tires and engines.

Batman-inspired action figures and batmobiles, $3 to $5, along with Ghostbuster action figures, $3, will do well, too, analysts said.

The new Teen-age Mutant Ninja Turtles, at $5 to $6, are favorites in the small-toy category, but classics such as G.I. Joe, at $3, continue to be popular, too.

Many older toys are making a comeback, with Mattel's Barbie, $10 to $14, leading that contest, even though she's now about 30 years old. There are various accessories, such as dance outfits and cassettes, $5 to $10, which add to her appeal, said TMA's Miller.

Oopsie Daisy, $38, from Tyco, and P.J. Sparkle, $25, from Mattel, are newer dolls that also could be big hits this year.

Another Christmas staple is the board game, especially Monopoly, $8.99, and Scrabble, $9.99. A new entry, Encore, $16, a musical game from Parker Brothers, is expected to do well.

If you're wondering what ever happened to Trump the Game, $22, launched with great fanfare last year, retailers said it hadn't stirred much excitement, yet.

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