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Ohio Art Debuts Electronic Version Of Etch A Sketch

NEW YORK– Ohio Art, makers of the 44-year-old Etch A Sketch, is trying to break into the consumer electronics retail channel with a plug-and-play activity system coming from its new electronics division.

Called the ETO, the device is recommended for kids between the ages four to 11 and will carry a suggested retail of $34.99 when it ships in June. Retailers can expect to earn margins typically between 28 and 32 points, said Larry Killgallon, Ohio Art president.

The “all-in-one TV hook-up creativity system,” looks like a traditional gaming controller equipped with a card slot for a range of forthcoming add-on programs that will ship on proprietary memory cards, starting in the late third quarter. The cards are expected to retail for between $9.99 to $12.99. The handheld controller plugs directly into the composite A/V terminals on the front or back of most TV sets and offers three built-in activity modes.

ETO will allow kids to create onscreen drawings and games. In addition to free-form illustrating, the system offers a range of features similar to the tools offered in computer drawing and image manipulation software. For example, it will allow users to paste in geometrical shapes that can be colored in with a fill function. Kids can also cut out sections of a drawing and paste in-stock illustrations of creatures and objects from an supplied image gallery. Animation and sounds can be added to bring drawings to life.

The three activity modes include the following:

  • Play Mode 1 – “My Ideas” allows children to create their own original artwork with a variety of drawing tools, 100 clip art images, colorful paints and patterns, and special effects.
  • Play Mode 2 – “Art Sparks” features a bundle of background images, animation, clip art, sound effects and more.
  • Play Mode 3 – “Create A Game” allows kids to create and play their own games. Users can design their own maze background, pick maze obstacles and choose from a variety of game characters.

Ohio Art will sell the product through its traditional toy retail distribution but is hoping to find new markets among CE retailers as well. Killgallon said the company expects Circuit City soon to be its first electronics retail partner, and the company will seek to expand into such accounts as Best Buy and RadioShack.

“Given the excellent brand recognition and consumer loyalty with Etch A Sketch, an extension into electronics is natural,” said Larry Killgallon. “We believe ETO offers consumers the core play value that’s been associated with Etch A Sketch packaged in an easy-to-use and exciting electronic format for television.”

Ohio Art is supporting the product with a $2 million television ad campaign running between August and Thanksgiving, Killgallon said. Targeted networks include Cartoon Network, The WB and Fox Kids.