Toys 'R' Us hopes AR will bring you back to its stores

Jon Fingas

Let's say you're Toys 'R' Us: you've just declared bankruptcy, and you're looking for something, anything that might convince customers to visit your stores instead of buying all their toys through Amazon. What would you do? If you ask Toys 'R' Us, the answer is simple: make a game out of store visits. The retailer has unveiled Play Chaser, a free augmented reality app for Android and iOS that turns stores into virtual playgrounds. Point the app at star icons in the store and your kids can play basketball (including with others) or take home a digital doll. The brand's mascot, Geoffrey the Giraffe, will even introduce the app and get players started.

Play Chaser is currently in testing across 23 American stores, most of them in California, New York and North Carolina. However, it should be available across all stores in the country as of October 21st.

Will this work? It's hard to say. There will no doubt be some kids who'll beg to go back to the store as a result, and you just know this will lead to purchases as kids 'conveniently' find toys they wouldn't have discovered without exploring the store. However, the logistics suggest that Toys 'R' Us won't want to rely too heavily on Play Chaser as part of its comeback. Never mind the thought of traveling to the store to play games -- while many parents can spare tablets and other devices for their kids, how many will trust their young ones to carry those devices through a store? It may well sweeten the experience for children (and parents, if it keeps kids preoccupied), but it might not change your mind if you were already bent on shopping from home.

Toys 'R' Us