Pokémon Go is taking over the world and quickly becoming a craze for the ages. And while Pokémon Go is not a video game in the traditional sense, it is a game-changer in terms of augmented reality and downloadable apps, one that looks to move the entire gaming industry in completely new directions. This got us here at Goliath thinking about other toy crazes that have taken the world by storm over the past 40 years. You know, the toys and games that we all remember and love, which were seemingly in high demand everywhere for a period of time, often leading to fairly sticky situations at retailers when they weren’t available. No need to push, we’ve got plenty of examples for everyone!
10. Rubik’s Cube
In 1980, the Rubik’s Cube seemingly took over the world. The little device, which was invented in 1974 by Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik, became a novelty toy that everyone had to get their hands on in order to try and solve it. Seriously, is there anyone reading this who has not tried to solve a Rubik’s Cube at least once? When it was initially released, trying to align a group of colored squares on a 9×9 cube consumed people endlessly. First introduced at international toy fairs and mass marketed by company Ideal Toys, the Rubik’s Cube sold 4.5 million units in its first year of existence alone. Since then, the toy and its different variations has sold more than 350 million units worldwide, making it one of the bestselling toys of all time. Today, experts can solve the cube in less than 10 seconds and actually compete in tournaments held around the world.
Don’t laugh. While it may seem antiquated today, the ColecoVision video game console was the toy to have in 1982, and we guarantee that every kid on the block wanted one. Marketed as a more sophisticated rival console to the esteemed Atari 2600, ColecoVision was the undisputed king of home gaming in 1982 and 1983. This was owing, in large part, to the fact that the ColecoVision game console came bundled with the hugely popular and addictive Donkey Kong video game, which is one of the most popular arcade games of all time (the rights of which were later purchased by Atari). More than 500,000 ColecoVision consoles sold in December 1982 at Christmas, and it probably would have been more, but the manufacturer could not keep up with demand. Coleco remained at the top of the videogame universe until 1984 when an expensive and hugely flawed expansion pack for the console disappointed fans and resulted in costly losses, part of the infamous Video Game Crash that sank both Coleco and Atari as console makers. The ColecoVision console was shelved in 1984, and years later, was eventually surpassed by the first Nintendo Entertainment System.
8. Tickle Me Elmo
Remember Tickle Me Elmo? While many people continue to view this toy as incredibly annoying, there is no denying that it was a bonafide craze when released in 1996. Based on the popular Sesame Street character, the doll would laugh hysterically when tickled. This simple concept somehow caught on like wildfire and the Tickle Me Elmo doll became the must -have toy for Christmas that year. Retailing for $30, parents were allegeedly offering people as much as $1,500 for one of the dolls in the parking lot of toy stores. One person in Denver, Colorado reportedly paid $7,100 for a Tickle Me Elmo on Christmas Eve. Several riots broke out in stores where the dolls were found to be in short supply. And one sales clerk at a Walmart in New Brunswick, Canada was trampled by 300 people in December 1996 when the store’s doors opened, sending him to hospital with life threatening injuries.
7. Trivial Pursuit
While some people considered Trivial Pursuit a game marketed to obnoxious yuppies in the 1980s, this board game that was designed to challenge people’s pop culture knowledge was a major craze for most of the mid ‘80s. Invented by two Canadian journalists, 22 million Trivial Pursuit board games were sold worldwide in 1984 alone. Hasbro eventually bought the rights to Trivial Pursuit and the game has, to date, sold more than 100 million units and amassed sales of more than $1 billion. The game has been sold in 26 different countries and translated into more than 20 languages. This success all started with an initial craze by people who wanted to get the board game so they could enjoy playing with friends and family. Say what you want about yuppies, but they clearly know a good thing when they see it.
6. Game Boy
Released in 1989, the Game Boy wasn’t the first handheld portable video game device, but it sure was the most popular. More than 1 million Game Boy devices were sold in its first month of release, and by 2000, more than 100 million Game Boys had been sold globally. The secret to the success of the simple grey and white device was due to many different reasons. First, it was portable and easy to take anywhere, including on long road trips. Second, it had an appealing style and price point, originally introduced for the very reasonable price of $90 (US). And third, the Game Boy had a large inventory of games, that featured some of Nintendo’s most popular characters, including Mario Legend of Zelda‘s Link. In addition, the Game Boy introduced people to the next big craze on this list, one that set the gaming world on fire in the early 1990’s and appealed to both children and their parents. We are, of course, talking about….
This simple puzzle game transfixed people when it was released on the Nintendo Game Boy in late 1989. Designed and programmed by Russian game designer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, early versions of Tetris were available on some home computers prior to the Game Boy. However, it was on the Game Boy that Tetris really took off and became an addiction for many children and adults. Suddenly, people were playing Tetris at their desks instead of working, trying to either top their own high score or beat someone else’s. To date, Tetris has sold 170 million copies and has the distinction of being the bestselling paid downloadable game of all time. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 100th issue had Tetris on its cover and named it the “Greatest Game of All Time”. and in 2007, Tetris came in second place in IGN’s “100 Greatest Video Games of All Time” poll.
4. Cabbage Patch Kids
If you didn’t have one yourself, we bet you know someone who did. In 1983 and 1984, Cabbage Patch Kids were the toy to have and parents who couldn’t get their hands on one probably felt horribly guilty. In fact, there were riots at toy stores across Canada and the U.S. as parents struggled to get one of these rather odd-looking dolls to put under the Christmas tree. In 1984 alone, sales of Cabbage Patch Kids and related merchandise surpassed $1 billion. To date, more than 115 million Cabbage Patch Kids have been sold worldwide, and there is even a museum dedicated to the history of this toy, and the craze it spawned, sitting on a 650-acre plot of land in Cleveland, Georgia (home of American inventor and businessman Xavier Roberts, who developed the Cabbage Patch Kids). Ironically, the toy was marketed and sold by Coleco, and the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon could not have come at a better time for the company, as it offset losses of the aforementioned ColecoVision console.
3. Nintendo Wii
When it was released in 2006, the Nintendo Wii was a game-changer for the console industry. Here, for the first time, was a home video game console that incorporated motion sensor controllers and three-dimensional (3D) motion detection and motion capture technology. The console and its games literally responded to the movements people made in their living rooms. Kids loved it, parents loved it, everyone loved it, as the Wii appealed to a wider range of consumers than any console had before. Gamers had never seen anything like it before, and it changed the gaming industry, as rivals Microsoft and PlayStation were sent scrambling to try and replicate the console’s functions and success (unfortunately for both, neither managed to match Nintendo in that market). More than three million Nintendo Wii units were sold during Christmas 2006, and the console outsold both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, combined, during the first half of 2007. As a result of its astounding success, PC World Magazine named the Nintendo Wii the most innovative product of the year for 2006.
2. iPod Touch
The original iPod, with its unique pinwheel control, was a massive success when released in 2001. However, it was when the iPod Touch hit the market in 2007 and introduced consumers to its inventive touchscreen that the device hit mega-craze status. Consumers immediately felt that their beloved MP3 player had taken a quantum leap into the future with the addition of a touchscreen. Suddenly, people no longer had to scroll through songs and albums to hear music. Instead they could simply do whatever they wanted with a simple touch of their finger. The handheld device market was never the same again. Of course, it helped that the iPod Touch’s price point of $299 was more attractive to people than the $400 being charged for a full-fledged iPhone. A total of 13 million iPod Touch devices were sold in the first year alone, and to date, nearly 50 million (and counting) of the devices have been sold globally.
With all the current hype surrounding Pokémon Go, it is easy to forget the craze that resulted from the original Pokémon video game when it took the world by storm in 1999. Created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1996, the Pokémon phenomenon started as a pair of role-playing video games for the previously mentioned Game Boy, known as Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue in North America. In its first year of release, Pokémon achieved global sales of more than $1 billion. Owing to its popularity, the video game quickly spawned everything from trading cards and toys to books and movies. Today, Pokémon is the second best-selling video game imprint ever, behind only Super Mario Brothers. Timed to coincide with the release of the Game Boy Color handheld device in late 1999, Pokémon Yellow became the fastest-selling video game of all time when it was released, moving one million units in its first week. At the end of 1999, a list of the 10 top selling video games in history was released, and five of them were titles from the Pokémon franchise.