Mattel’s ‘real swords for kids’ toyline discontinued amid poor sales, industry shocked
This past summer, Mattel rolled out advertisements for a new toyline dubbed Swords For Kids. First up was the a toy called Student Samurai. The ads featured kids from the ages of 3 to 10 swinging around multicolored samurai swords in a state of joy anyone over 35 can no longer achieve.
These were honest to goodness Katana’s, called a Nihonto or Shinken in Japanese. Mattel had stuck a partnership with real Katana craftsmen from Japan to create these new toys.
It was euphoric to see these youths chopping watermelons in half in midair and stabbing life size cut-outs of their favorite animated characters. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Shrek sliced into pieces or an inflatable life size Olaf hacked up like a salami. It made many adults feel one thing: left out.
Heck, even I became jealous I was no longer a child. Can you imagine having a tie dye blade in your hand when Damian tries to take your lunch money on the way to school? I can. I see Damian’s smug face changing real quick after I chop both his arms off. Now what, Damian? You still gonna hit me with my own backpack? No? It’s a little hard without your hands, isn’t it?
If it’s a fifth as satisfying in real life as I imagine it being, then this would be the best toy ever dreamed up. So why has it taken so long for this idea to materialize? One competitor admitted they would never have considered anything like Student Samurai.
CEO of Hasbro Brian Goldner told us after Mattel’s ads were released, “I can’t deny I’m impressed. On paper it sounds like a bad idea, mostly because the expenses involved in creating so many legitimate samurai swords is enormous. The fact that Mattel managed to make them available in an array of colors is simply flawless business.”
Every retailer wanted a piece of Student Samurai. They were begging Mattel to produce as many units as they could manage, which started a frenzy behind closed doors. They had to manufacture and ship a significantly larger amount of product before the early November release date than anticipated.
Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz relayed the pressure they were feeling back in August.
“It’s a tough situation to be in. On the one hand, nobody expected us to get this amount of attention and positive buzz from this specific toy. Frankly, I thought we were taking a risk by giving this the go ahead.”
“On the other hand, we find ourselves in a position where we need to keep up with demand we can’t anticipate. There’s pressure all around to make sure we don’t suddenly pull a Popeye’s Chicken sandwich situation. That product exploded, but they didn’t even remotely have enough prepared and the sandwich was unavailable for a couple months. We can’t let that happen with Student Samurai.”
I appreciate the Popeye’s dig, as I still haven’t had one of those freaking sandwiches. I’ve been afraid to go back to one after I got beat up by a young man named Douglas. He budged in line, and I had been waiting for two hours to order this thing. I called him out for his rudeness and then he beat the piss out of me. When I filed the lawsuit against him, I had no idea he was only in fifth grade. I just want to make that clear.
In October, longtime Mattel rival, Hasbro, announced their take on this new genre of toy. It’s a board game called Kreative Kills, where everyone is a murderer. For those who are curious, the instructions from the test editions that were given to certain members of the press (myself included) are below.
Despite Kreative Kills making jaws drop due to its clever and family friendly gameplay, it won’t be ready for release for over a year. Mattel knew that being first mattered, and despite Hasbro’s best efforts, Mattel was destined to come out as King of the mountain.
Or so it seemed.
Flash forward to today and we have Bruno Strasburg, inventor of the Student Samurai, announcing production has been discontinued. The swords will be completely pulled from shelves by the end of the year, according to his press release.
How did this happen?
Could it have been the $900 price point? Surely not, as the swords were every kids dream and more than worth the money. Strasburg offered up some theories of his own, though.
“I think where we went wrong was expecting parents to actually buy these for their kids. Nobody on our staff paused to think about how dangerous these could be,” said Strasbourg.
I think it’s more complicated than that. How many times do I have to explain what a brilliant idea this was? It was basically selling itself until the Safety Commission got involved and started asking stupid questions like, “what if a kid has a bad day and attacks their sibling or even a babysitter with their Student Samurai?”
Strasbourg’s job is definitely in jeopardy after this colossal failure, so I understand he has to play the P.R. game. But couldn’t he show a little backbone? It’s disheartening to watch him flop over like a dead fish.
Strasbourg was caught leaving Mattel’s offices by the press earlier this morning and was asked what he will take away from his failure with the Student Samurai.
“I guess we learned children aren’t meant to have real swords at their immediate disposal. Kids hurt themselves in dumb ways all the time, so it doesn’t make sense to make it easier for them,” Strasbourg said.
Perhaps there is a little truth to be found there, but it’s hard to know for sure. I still don’t know if I believe all these “accidents” were a problem with the toy itself, as they seem to be more related to user error.
Either way I suggest picking up your own Student Samurai before it’s too late. I’d hate to see so many of them melted down and repurposed. I got my hands on one opening night and love it to death!
I’ve used it to strike down photos of Damian and his family that I attached to trees in my backyard. I actually broke my first two as I had a lot of built of aggression as a result of of never talking about all the physical and emotional pain Damian caused me over my formative years. No matter. I simply bought more swords and printed out more pictures of Damian and his family. It’s been a cathartic experience.
I actually currently own thirty-seven Student Samurai swords. Don’t worry, only ten are for me. I’m going to give away the others.
They’re going to make great presents for my nieces and nephews.
Editor’s note: WSYS does not endorse the purchase of the “Student Samurai” due to the large volume of injuries children have sustained while using them. The author of this post does not speak for our company as a whole, and any opinions expressed are his alone. Thank you for visiting our site.