Sphero’s hinted that it’s getting out of the licensed product game, but today CEO Paul Berberian confirmed to The Verge that the company is clearing out its remaining licensed inventory and won’t be restocking the supply. That means the company won’t be producing any more BB-8s, R2-D2s, Lightning McQueen cars, or talking Spider-Mans. The listings for all the toys list them as “legacy products” that are no longer in production. App support will continue for “at least two years, if not longer,” Berberian says.
The Disney partnership lasted three years, but ultimately, the licensed toy business required more resources than it was worth, Berberian tells The Verge. These toys sold well when released with a movie, but interest waned over time as the movie became more distant, he says. Still, the company sold “millions” of BB-8s, although company data shows that the toys weren’t used much after initial play time and eventually sat on shelves.
The company sold ‘millions’ of BB-8s
“When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest,” he says. “Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny.” The opposite is true of the company’s non-licensed educational robots, he says, which become more popular year after year. None of this means Star Wars fans don’t want a BB-8 to follow them around, but Berberian says all the Star Wars fans already bought their toy. The market has dried up, at least until the next movie in the franchise.
Sphero dedicated lots of engineers to its Disney products, too. When it developed Lightning McQueen, it worked alongside Pixar employees to determine the facial expressions it should make, as well as how the body of the car should move. Sphero also hired voice actors to remain true to Disney characters. Disney, of course, took a cut of every sale, which meant these licensed products cost more than Sphero’s own toys. Sphero employs 100 people.
Now, the company is focusing on building out its educational ecosystem with a particular interest in getting more products into schools, another built-in market with an expendable budget. It most recently released a programmable robot with LED lights and acquired Specdrums, presumably to bring some sort of music playback to its devices.