Toy future: Wrestlers on the Net

This Christmas, give your son a Net-enabled wrestling action figure.

NEW YORK -- Now, straight from the Internet and into your living room, it's the World Wrestling Federation.

The WWF has signed a deal with Jakks Pacific Inc. to produce a line of interactive action figures that can download audio clips from the Web. But this is only one of a growing number of toys on display at the 1999 International Toy Fair that are hooking up to the Net.

The $50 figures, which will debut this fall with Stone Cold Steve Austin, connect to the PC through a serial port. A special registration card that comes with the figure gives children access to a new Web site developed by WWF and Jakks, which will be refreshed with new content, such as video clips, up to three times a day.

A set of pre-recorded audio clips will also be available on a CD-ROM that comes with the figure.

Not just for wrestlers
The WWF's Web site is the most popular site for boys between 12 and 17, said Jakks President Stephen Berman.

Toy companies are discovering that the Web can be used to promote their product to already interested customers, and to give purchasers an added bonus.

For instance, Toymax International Inc. is launching a Web site, together with its new Girls' Best Friends Club toy line.

Girls will be able to visit the site, and, using a special password, chat with other girls and enter contests. Technology is incorporated in other aspects of the line, such as a $20 Secret Message Recorder that lets girls save an audio message on magnetic tape, which can then be attached to note cards or stationary.

Other highlights of the show, which runs through the week:

People once used the mail to play chess long distance. Hasbro Interactive has taken that into the information age with the launch of three e-mail versions of it classic games -- Scrabble, Battleship and a package of chess, checkers and backgammon. The games, the first of eight such products, cost $14.95. Only one player needs to purchase the game, and he or she can play against anyone with an e-mail address. After the second player downloads a client, the two play by sending attachments that are about 10 to 20K.

Hasbro has also introduced a new version of its CD-ROM playsets, which include play devices that strap onto a keyboard so that small children can interact with the PC. Children manipulate the playsets, which in turn press keys on the keyboard to interact with the CD-ROM game. The Easy Bake Oven and Playskool Store cost $39.95, and will be available in the fall.

For older children, Hasbro is introducing a light pen technology that can be pointed at the computer screen to interact with the game. The Nerf Jr. game uses a gun-like device to shoot aliens on the screen, and the Clue Jr. Spy Glass mystery has a magnifying glass that children can move over the PC monitor to reveal mystery clues. Both will be priced at $29.95 and will be available in the fall.

Barbie may be turning 40 this year, but she's still hip. Mattel Inc. (NYSE:MAT) is coming out with several software titles designed around the doll, including the Barbie Gotta Groove CD-ROM, which includes the new Generation Girl friends being introduced this year. The $34.99 game lets girls design a dance number for Barbie and her friends, pick out costumes and dress the stage.

The success of last year's Barbie Digital Camera has prompted Mattel to introduce the Mattel Media camera. The $69.99 camera and CD-ROM kit includes software that allows kids to manipulate images, and stick them into 3-D sets. Kids can also store the images and print out their creations.

The Winnie the Pooh Chat Pal, also from Mattel, contains a radio that allows the toys to talk to each other and to the child. The dolls also have audio sensors and movable heads, so they can look at a child when he or she talks to them. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger will be available in the fall for $36, and a Piglet doll will be introduced in the spring of 2000.


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