SXSW Gaming Is Tapping Into the Toy Industry Big With TechUp Founder Valerie Vacante

Published on March 15, 2019

Even with the return of Toys R’ Us, there are other global brands and startups that are ready to take the toy and gaming industries up to the next level.

Starting today and going through March 17, SXSW Gaming has an action-packed schedule with a combination of exhibitions, eSports tournaments, hands-on play, awards, panels, and more.


I spoke with connected play expert, Valerie Vacante about how the future of gaming is already here, ready for all ages to unpack.

For Gaming, Numbers Never Lie

Although technology is on a rapid growth trajectory, it is important for innovators and brands to design experiences with the consumer first, not technology first. Technology is an enabler to enhance experiences that bring magic and wonder to the world.” 

– Valerie Vacante, Founder, Collabsco / Co-Founder, TechUp

Connected Play

According to Juniper Research, connected play will represent an $18 billion market by 2023, up from an estimated $6 billion in 2018.

With connected play on track to increase nearly 200% in less than four years combined with the exponential growth across augmented reality, voice and robotics we will see more connected ways for kids and families to play, learn and genuinely have fun together,” Vacante emphasized.  

TechMods, by Mattel is the first ever Gaming RC designed for digital natives. With unique game modes and ways to play it’s cooler than any RC car on the market.

Plus you get to build your own car from the ground up! TechMods is launching in April on IndieGOGO.

Augmented Reality

The augmented reality (AR) gaming market is also expected to reach over $280 billion by 2023, according to HTF.

SwapBots by Draw and Code the collectible, customizable toys and game that come to life through augmented reality with hundreds of combinations in the physical and digital world.

A limited number of early access products will be released this Spring 2019 with an International launch planned for early 2020. For a video demo, please click here.

MekaMon, by Reach Robotics, the creators of the world’s first AR gaming robot, have announced the upcoming launch of a dedicated education app, Reach EDU which will operate alongside the existing MekaMon gaming app.

 Reach EDU will go live in Spring 2019. To see a video demo, please click here.

Consumer Robotics

By 2022, it’s estimated that consumer robotics will reach almost $23 billion per annum, up from an estimated $6.4 billion in 2018. In the U.S. alone, voice-activated speakers or smart home-assistants like Amazon’s Echo or Google Home Assistant, are expected to see a 50% increase this year.

St. Noire by X2 Games is the world’s first voice-controlled murder mystery board game, brought to life through cinematic sound design and a rogue’s gallery of fully voiced characters that you can interact with. 

Available exclusively on Amazon pre-order available and to released July 18th.


Untamed Mad Lab by WowWee are miniature hybrid creatures created from Untamed DNA. The Mad Lab Minis Series 1 collection has 34 different creatures to collect.

Coming soon is an AR MadLab app to add your creature to your virtual Mad Lab!

For a video demo, please click here.

Digital Games

And, of course for all you digital gamers out there, the market is anything but dull, with an expected $160 billion market estimation by 2022.

TechUp Is Back At It In Austin, Texas
TechUp founders, Valerie Vacante (L) and Peter Jenkinson (R)

TechUp, a curated service created by Vacante, a connected play innovator and Founder of strategy and innovation firm, Collabsco, alongside Peter Jenkinson, a Toyologist and Founder of Toyology, is tapping into the future of play by showcasing the present, near-future and innovators of the connected play sector.

After its successful launch, most recently at CES in Las Vegas and of course at WIRED LIVE and WIRED Next Generation in London, TechUp is back at it down in Austin, Texas at SXSW, bringing together cool, creative, curated products that people of all generations and demographics can enjoy.

For those interested in attending SXSW Gaming this weekend, here’s the line-up of events you definitely don’t want to miss out on:

Toys and Games of Today and The Future of Play

Friday, 1:00pm-2:00pm

Austin Convention Center – Gaming Expo Discovery Stage

The near future will bring greater variety in choice, ways to play, and types of innovative technologies which in turn will create more magical experiences for toys than ever before.

Hear perspectives from Valerie Vacante, Founder of Collabsco, Gerry Cody, Director of Product Design, Hot Wheels Innovation at Mattel, Zai Ortiz, President, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, X2 Games and John Keefe, Co-Founder, SwapBots and learn how these leaders are crafting the future of interactive play through immersive stories, augmented reality collectibles and the power of voice.

Connected Play: Gamifying the World Around Us

Friday, March 15 3:30pm – 4:30pm – Austin Convention Center – ROOM 8C

More than fun and games, connected play is expected to be an $18 billion industry within the next five years. As new emerging tech experiences evolve, how are designers and developers creating safe, connected play experiences that help us play, learn and explore in the physical and digital world. Join Valerie Vacante,  Founder of Collabsco, Phil Sage, Senior Director Design & Dev iPlay, Meir Biton, Chief Product Officer at StoryBall, and Krissa Watry, Founder/CEO, Dynepic Inc. to hear how designers, engineers and creators are gamifying the worlds around us.

Global Tech Toy and Games Meetup

Saturday, 3:30pm-4:30pm – ROOM 8AB

Connect with global toy and game leaders Gerry Cody, Director of Product Design, Hot Wheels Innovation at Mattel and Rich Mazel, Senior Director Global Product Acquisition at Hasbro, alongside Valerie Vacante, Founder of Collabsco, to learn how to bring your toy or game to new international audiences.

See, play and experience some of the latest tech toys and games from around the world including: TechMods (Mattel), SwapBots (Draw and Code), St. Noire (X2 Games),  MekaMon (Reach Robotics) and Untamed Mad Lab (WowWee).

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

Read more

More GD News