After missing the previous Design Festa, I was interested to see how indie toys were represented at the show. There were a few big trends. First, the booths were spread out around the Big Sight, but mostly in clumps. So on the 1st floor you had the old school crew - Max Toys, Blobpus, Yamomark, Sunguts, and Pico Pico - all together again, and they were in eye shot of Marmit.
Then on the 4th floor, you had the long Jungle table (representing many toy makers) right next to the Rampage booth. And then there were a few other booths like Chima scattered around the Big Sight. Personally, I liked it better when most of the toy makers were together, so we'll see if that might happen again in the future.
Another trend I noticed is how interlinked makers within these groups are. So in the Max Toys + friends group, you had makers customizing one another's toys, accessory makers putting things out for multiple lines across companies, and so on. Over on the Jungle table, although many different makers were there, it had the look and feel of an umbrella brand.
A final note I'd say is it's becoming clearer to me that the separation between Japanese sofubi and American sofubi is becoming stronger all the time. At the Rampage booth, you had a bunch of different Western toy makers represented in some way, by an American toy seller. But for the most part, that was it. Recently at SDCC and NYCC, I got the opposite sense. There were very few Japanese makers there at all (Gargamel was a big exception at SDCC).
My sense is that's because the American indie toy scene has grown so much that there are plenty of makers at US events to fill booths and find customers. At the same time, Japanese makers know what their local customers like, and there's plenty of product put out at shows and through other channels to meet that demand.
Of course it isn't black and white. There is still plenty of interchange, especially with Japanese toys making their way overseas. And there has been a lot of movement with the attention that D-Con is getting for toy makers from all over the place. But in general right now I'd say we're looking at a mature market. It's downright easy for Western designers to get their toys made in sofubi, so all those old channels and gateways have come tumbling down. With sites like Big Cartel, "lottery" sales via e-mail lists, and so on, it's easier than ever for makers to find collectors. So if you can't get a hold of new stuff from one place, there's plenty of other stuff on the other side of the world to catch your attention.
Anyway, that's just my sense, and maybe the longest preramble I've written for a show. Next up, indie toys at DF40.