The Toy Industry is changing in leaps and bounds, and learning to cater more than ever to the needs of their customers. Small, independent companies are stepping in to fill the niches that larger companies have missed. Kickstarter provides great evidence of this with millions of dollars pledged toward ambitious projects like those featured on this list.
While there are alternative financing options, not every startup or small business has access to generous angel investors and venture capitalists. Kickstarter bridges that gap by allowing studios and small production companies to cut out the middle man and directly interact with their audience. The result?
They can provide intricate paint, better sculpts, detailed accessories, and plentiful articulation without the woes of mass production. China’s wages are growing, and this is leading to foreign production costs rapidly matching that of domestic manufacturing. Many small toy companies are opting to 3D print or manufacture domestically to save on transportation costs and maintain greater hands-on control.
The following Kickstarter projects show what can be accomplished with a great concept, careful planning, and a product that resonates with your audience.
Funding Pledged: $452,528
Four Horsemen Studios knocked this one out of the park. Successfully melding their gothic-fantasy style with the sculpting quality we have come to expect, this project smashed their previous Kickstarter Gothitropolis record of $303,666. This team includes talented sculptors who have worked on projects with Mattel, NECA, McFarlane, and beyond. Mythic Legions is one of their original properties, and draws heavily from classic fantasy archetypes. By funding’s end, the 16 original figures offered rose to 35, along with a bevy of accessory packs. The line is filled with brawny warriors, armored knights, and vicious orcs.
The majority of these 6” scale figures feature 30 points of articulation, and have interchangeable heads and armor. Keep an eye out, as I’m sure Four Horsemen has more stunningly detailed plastic offerings in the works.
Funding Pledged: $163,194
Cannybots are taking the world by storm. Not just a toy, the Cannybot robot building kit is also a unique platform to teach children of all ages about robotics and programming. The makers of the Cannybot seek to bridge the gap between education and fun. The Cannybot is controllable by bluetooth compatible smartphones and tablets, and is capable of playing multiple games. You can also program it via the included free app, and learn valuable robotics programming skills in the process.
One of the coolest features is the ability to 3D print your own exterior shell. Their Kickstarter has recently introduced shells covered in LEGO studs, allowing you to build your own designs and attach minifigures.
Funding Pledged: $412,270
As a child, I grew up fascinated by myths and historical accounts of the Greeks, Romans, and other great cultures of the Ancient World. Unfortunately there were few toy options for a history fan like myself. Boss Fight Studios stepped in to fill this niche in 2014, offering a detailed line of myth-based figures. You now can arm your Spartan men (and soon women) to fight off hordes of Skeletons. Fancy a real challenge? Grab your shield and face off against the Medusa herself.
They feature more points of articulation than you can shake a stick at, and are easily customizable. If you love historical myths and enjoy customizing, this toy line is probably the one for you.
Funding Pledged: $190,238
Marauder’s second offering of figures promises to finally provide realistic female soldiers to collectors worldwide. The smashing success of the campaign proves that there is market for strong women in the toy aisle after all.
A study from the University of Southern California determined that women are on average 3 times as likely to be depicted or identified as “eye candy” in films, a problem that crosses over into video games, comics, and toy lines. This and the next project listed are both important steps to address this inequality.
You’ll find no bikini chainmail armor or unrealistic proportions here. Each figure is also available in multiple ethnicities with interchangeable weapons and equipment, and fits perfectly in scale with Marauder’s male soldier line. Has your daughter or sister always wanted a kick-butt female soldier to battle the boys and their G.I. Joes? The time has finally arrived!
Funding Pledged: $162,906
If any successful Kickstarter on this list smashes the idea of gendered toys, it is IAmElemental. These detailed, innovative action figures effortlessly demonstrate that there is a vibrant market for strong female characters. Each figure is colorful, fully poseable, and represents the “Elements of Courage”: Bravery, Energy, Honesty, Industry, Enthusiasm, Persistence, and Fear. The company was at New York Comic Con earlier this month with an exclusive figure called “Pink Bravery”. All proceeds are donated directly to Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Funding Pledged: $4,079,204
The follow-up project to their original Zombicide game line (and 18th Kickstarter overall), “Black Plague” has exceeded all expectations. It features refined rules, reworked gameplay, and a veritable cornucopia of miniatures.
The self-contained base game features 71 highly detailed miniature figures and all necessary rules and pieces for $100. In contrast, $60 will net you a single squad of flimsy resin figures from other prominent tabletop gaming companies. You can then look forward to spending $50 every few months on “updated” rulesets. I’ll let you decide which offers more bang for your buck.
Funding Pledged: $290,656
The Blue Bomber obliterated his competition when this Kickstarter went live. With a focus on high quality sculpting and functional accessories, this action figure garnered a lot of buzz. The figure is an excellent example of combining multiple mediums. The bulk of the figure is PVC while his armored parts are diecast. TruForce has gone above and beyond, providing exceptional detail. His cannon even features an LED light!
Far from a mass-produced peg-warming figure, this is clear evidence of what can be accomplished when adult collectors directly support projects they are passionate about.