I decided to put our typical thought leadership aside for this month’s newsletter to focus on something absolutely wonderful that’s happening during this time of crisis. While we’re all staying at home nurturing our families, practicing social distancing, thoroughly and frequently washing our hands and doing our best to maintain our collective sanity as we do our part to help flatten the pandemic curve, those of us who work in and support the toy industry should all be quite proud of what some companies are doing to help in this time of need.
Firstly, I’m happy to know that March 2020 toy and game sales are through the roof during the crisis as parents are loading up on these products to keep their little ones busy while they work from home (and to keep the adults busy, too, when work is done). Although this may not be enough to ensure a bountiful future or prevent additional layoffs, it’s certainly refreshing news after a modest decline through 2018 and 2019 and the uncertainty we’ve been dealing with as a result of the pandemic. While sales may be spiking, toy companies are shifting gears and leveraging their ”quick to market” capabilities to assist in the battle against COVID-19.
A shift in focus to make an immediate difference
MGA Entertainment, Inc. announced in a press release last Wednesday that they were kicking-off ”OPERATION: PAC-MAN, an initiative created to bring supporters together so that hospitals and healthcare workers are stocked with the supplies they need to protect themselves during their effort to eradicate the virus.” The initiative will deliver more than 2 million masks, robes and protective gear to hospitals around the world. They also created a web page for fans, partners and retailers who want to support the efforts, which includes a link where hospitals and healthcare workers can request certified and approved supplies to be sent to their facility.
CEO and Founder of MGA Entertainment, Inc., Isaac Larian, also announced that he is working on retooling the Little Tikes factory in Hudson, OH, so that medical supplies for hospitals can be manufactured in the United States. He added that MGAE’s fifteen 3-D printers have been made available for any hospitals that need them.
Mattel, Inc. joined in on the effort as well, announcing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram on Monday that they are ”committed to helping protect our healthcare workers” by ”making face masks from Barbie and Fisher-Price fabric and creating personal protective equipment (PPE) with help from healthcare professionals.”
Through their Children’s Foundation, Mattel, Inc. is collaborating with their non-profit partners on a global scale including Baby2Baby, Feed the Children, LA Family Housing, Partners for Pediatric Vision, Save the Children and UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, among others, by providing toys, art supplies and more.
According to an article on Forbes.com, the good deeds being done to contribute to the effort against COVID-19 don’t end with the industry’s big players. Norristown, PA-based Crazy Aaron’s, maker of Thinking Putty, adjusted its factory’s production line to produce hand sanitizer. The company had materials on hand to produce the product, and made the production shift within 72 hours, then donated the first 100 gallons produced to local first responders.
Spreading the message
Just as important as addressing the needs of healthcare professionals on the front line of this battle is the dissemination of key messages from the World Health Organization to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a united effort, 18 gaming industry leaders in the interactive entertainment space, in conjunction with the World Health Organization, have launched #PlayApartTogether, an initiative that encourages their vast network of users to follow the WHOs health guidelines, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other preventative actions people can take to fight COVID-19. The initiative encourages users to adopt best practices for the sake of their own health and that of their families and communities by bringing special events, exclusives, activities, rewards and inspiration to some of the most popular games in the world. Members of the program include Activision Blizzard, Amazon Appstore, Big Fish Games, Dirtybit, Glu Mobile, Jam City, Kabam, Maysalward, Playtika, Pocket Gems, Riot Games, SciPlay, Snap Games, Twitch, Unity, Wooga, YouTube Gaming and Zynga.
This is an uncertain and scary time for all of us, with news about the pandemic changing every day, and the things we take for granted in our daily lives as well as the ways we interact with each other having been put on hold indefinitely. It would be very easy for these companies to focus on protecting their own interests, given what we’re all up against. So, it’s great to see the toy and gaming industries stepping up and contributing to the fight against COVID-19 through financial donations, their unique skillsets, their facilities and their supply chains.
What can we do to help?
You’re staying home, washing your hands and practicing social distancing, which is helping tremendously. But, what if you want to do more to help people and communities affected by the pandemic?
If you’re in a position to make a donation, you can contact the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Donations received will go towards funding the activities of the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, which includes:
- Putting in place activities to track and understand the spread of the virus.
- Ensuring patients get the care they need.
- Buying and shipping essential supplies such as masks, gloves and protective wear to front line workers.
- Producing evidence-based guidelines and advice, and making sure health workers and responders get the information and training needed to detect and treat affected patients.
- Producing guidance for the general public and for particular groups on measures to take to prevent the spread and prevent themselves and others from contracting the virus.
- Accelerating efforts to develop vaccines, tests and treatments.
If you want to put your donation to good use locally, you can reach out to the following organizations in your area: