/// 04 August 2009 ///
The Liv® Girls - Daniela®, Katie®, Sophie®, and Alexis®

The press release for Spin Master's new fashion doll line, Liv®, was...released () last Friday. You can read it here.

It's interesting that the release compares the dolls' feature set to collector dolls. Based on that comparison, I'm guessing they might have been inspired - at least in part - by Asian-style ball jointed dolls (like Volks's Super Dollfie). All three physical features listed in the press release - extensive articulation, interchangeable wigs, and inset "glass"-style eyes - are hallmarks of BJDs.

However, it remains to be seen if Liv (in its current format) will incorporate one of the biggest draws of BJDs: Customization.

Like I said in the first entry, I normally don't like it when toymakers give fashion dolls specific personalities. It's usually done to make the dolls more appealing to children, but I feel it actually limits their appeal in a way, because children have to choose whether to make their purchase decision based on the doll's appearance or its personality.

For example, what if Hypothetical Kid likes the way Sophie® looks, but prefers Katie®'s skateboarding theme? Which doll should they buy? This is especially critical with brands like Liv; if Hypothetical Kid buys Sophie, they're locked into her storyline on the website - when they'd rather be watching Katie's.

The website and codes packed in with accessories could provide kids with a great "customization" experience. It's so obvious, I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be part of the line after all - but we'll have to wait and see.

(I'm also curious whether the dolls' eyes can be changed like most BJD's...)

I'm glad to hear that accessory sets will be available - and, like I hoped, they will come with codes that extend the purchaser's time on Livworld.com. They also "unlock additional play features" on the website. (Hopefully that has something to do with the type of "customization" I mentioned before.)

(Side Note: I regret referring to the one-year time limit on the codes packed in with the dolls as "extortion" - that was just my knee-jerk reaction to the [incorrect] impression I got from the website that consumers had to buy another doll if their kids wanted to keep using the site. Obviously it costs money to run a website and the money has to come from somewhere. The accessory packs at least add extra play value to the dolls kids already have in addition to giving them new codes, which is a much less "nefarious"-ish way of doing it than what I originally thought was the case. )

Separate fashions will be in the US$15 range. And - although the press release doesn't mention it specifically, separate wigs will also be available, and at a low price point. (They could be great for rerooting... )

Of course, it wouldn't be a press release without a little exaggeration... The "unique never before seen features" it lists are somewhat unique for playline fashion dolls, but they have definitely been seen before. In fact, last year Jakks Pacific released Juku Couture™ - a line of fashion dolls with a mix-and-match fashion theme - and, except for wigs (they have rooted hair), their feature set is exactly the same as Liv: Inset "glass"-style eyes (Jakks calls them "True Eyes™"), highly-detailed fashions, and exactly 14 points of articulation, just like Liv.

And, of course wigs aren't a "new" thing either. So, to summarize - although these features aren't "standard" on most children's fashion dolls, they have all been done before.

However, the press release doesn't exaggerate about one thing: The price point. The dolls will retail for around US$19.99.

(The commercial I saw on Qubo was selling them for $19.99 as well, but that's without a middleman - plus, I assumed it was to help make up for the $10 shipping and handling charge. )

To put this into perspective, the Juku Couture dolls also retail for around US$19.99, but at 9" tall they're significantly smaller than the Liv dolls. (They're closer to Skipper® size; Liv is closer to Barbie®-size.) They also don't come with exclusive access to an online feature.

And the Liv dolls have very large heads - much much bigger than the Juku Couture dolls. It takes a lot more hair to cover a Liv head - and the Liv dolls each come with an extra wig packed in, which is essentially an entire second head of hair.

$19.99 is definitely an amazingly low price point for these dolls. However, the fact that some of the accessory sets retail for almost as much as the dolls is a tip-off that the dolls are possibly being discounted to help drive sales of accessories.

One last thing - I have to say, I love the statement in the press release that the Liv dolls are "neither perfect nor bratty"... I wonder which two major fashion doll lines they're referring to?...

Doll Diary 04 August 2009