Lego’s new digital system and other “toys-to-life” will be huge this holiday season

Toy story.
Toy story.
Image: AP/Jae C. Hong
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Smart toys are getting a lift this year from video game console-connected play figures like Skylanders, Amiibo, and the new Lego Dimensions line.

The booming toy segment known as “toys-to-life,” which didn’t even exist five years ago, is expected to propel global smart toy sales, including hardware and app content, to $2.8 billion in 2015, according to Juniper Research.

The heightened interest in app-enabled and console-connected toys is due to their ability to connect the physical and virtual worlds, the report says. They allow toy makers, like Lego, to tap into the vastly popular gaming environment they’ve been competing against for decades. And, for game developers, they’re a way to generate revenue from franchises beyond the original game sale, as Fortune reported.

The report’s author, Steffen Sorrell, told Quartz that he expects the majority of smart toys shipped this year to be console-connected toys, such as Nintendo’s Amiibo accessories.

So far, he said, the best sellers are from game developers like Activision, which put toys-to-life on the map with Skylanders in 2011, and Nintendo, which introduced figurines called Amiibos last year that have being flying off the shelves. Disney’s Disney Infinity line is also popular. And Lego, which broke into the market in September with Lego Dimensions, is projected to drive sales during the holidays.

Among smartphone- and tablet-connected toys, Mattel’s Hello Barbie, Sphero’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens BB8 droid, Fisher-Price’s Smart Toy Bear, and Disney’s Playmation Avengers are expected to top shopping lists this holiday season, Sorrell said.