Sometimes you can tell when a trend is going to come along. Noticeable shifts in the market, a strong advertising push, momentum in culture swaying in a certain direction.
But then this little goblin came along and questioned everything we thought we knew about predictability.
Sometimes the people want something that’s straight up weird.
In 1998, the efforts of Dave Hampton and Caleb Chung came to fruition after almost a year of design and creation. They invited another toy creating guru named Richard C. Levy onto their team and together they were able to convince Tiger Electronics to license the idea.
The strange talking hamster-owl made its first appearance at the American International Toy Fair later that year.
The idea for the Furby was to create a domestic robot-pet that would communicate and talk to you and hopefully not murder you in your sleep.
They spoke “Furbish” when first purchased, but would gradually start speaking English. The intention was to make it seem like this drunken little gremlin was learning a new language the longer it was domesticated.
They originally sold for $35 US and did very well in sales, but then the Christmas season rolled around and everyone lost their collective minds.
The demand was enormous. Stores simply couldn’t stock the toy fast enough and it resulted in resale value being in the hundreds of dollars.
Crafty toy hustlers were auctioning their Furby’s off and often not delivering the product after receiving payment. When a store did get a new shipment of Furby’s in stock, the release of them would be an every man for themselves battle royal right there in the middle of the toy department. Parents were literally brawling in the aisles to secure one of these little weirdos. It was the Teddy Ruxpin fiasco all over again.
When the dust settled, 27 million Furby’s had been sold and 40 million within its first three years on the market.
Like every other popular product, the hype eventually died down, and several revivals were attempted with moderate success.
Furby’s were brought back in 2005 and 2012, with many different iterations and cross-over branding to try to capitalize on the magic that once was.
With the success of Amazon and other online retailers, its rare that we’ll ever see the parental gang warfare again (though Black Friday says otherwise), but I look forward to the next toy that creates the pandemonium that Furby’s once had.
Nothing says the holiday season like this creepy gerbil-bear being ripped in two by a bunch of wildly stressed out parents.