Just a couple of weeks after announcing Mr. Potato Head's unimaginable move to the Dark Side, Hasbro
For those of you who don't know (and I'm glad you made it safely from under that rock), Furby is a 5-1/2 inch furry toy that speaks its own language, known as Furbish, and if left alone with another Furby, the two could communicate with each other.
This evolved version will be bigger, smarter, and more interactive than the comparatively cavemanlike 1998 version. Perhaps the coolest evolution is the addition of "Emoto-Tronics," which is a combination of advanced robotic technology, puppetry, and realistic lifelike reactions and movements. Furby 2005 will be able to think on its own and express moods by laughing, frowning, and even gasping. This is starting to sound like it has the makings of a bad horror movie.
Adults often had more fun with the furry toy than children did, and that may be the case again. A quick search on Google reveals a plethora of websites dedicated to those interested in discovering the inner workings of Furby. There are hacking sites, autopsy sites, and sites that share secret procedures to get the toy to perform a variety of acts, including making him burp repeatedly and causing him to hiccup.
The first time around, Furby generated nearly $600 million in sales from fiscal fourth-quarter 1998 to fiscal Q4 1999; he helped Hasbro's overall revenue grow by more than 27% to a record $4.2 billion. However, that one year accounted for nearly 60% of Furby's $1 billion in sales over his lifetime. Furby lost popularity just as quickly as he gained it, and the company's sales fell by 10% in 2000.
Despite Furby's tragically short lifespan the first time around, I think its evolution is another good move by the toy maker on its way back toward glory. Even if it's just a short-lived fad (as it was the first time around), it should help push the company's numbers higher in the near term. The difference this time around is that Hasbro didn't have to shell out big bucks to buy Furby. And with today's more advanced technologies, I'm sure a few curious adults will be taking Furby home again, just to see what they can make the little guy do.
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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article.