Beyond the rectangle and two dimensions
In the past, when a puzzle was completed, its final shape was a rectangle in two dimensions, and the main difference between puzzles was the image that the player had to put together. However, some years ago things started to change and nowadays puzzles are presented with much broader options.
In the market, it is now common to find puzzles that have different shapes. The company Scratch Europe has great products, for example, their “Contour Puzzle Pelican” has the outline of that specific animal. Packaging has also been influenced by this trend, mainly since years ago, the company Djeco changed the way they presented their puzzles, from a rectangular case to a big range of shapes.
Currently, there are also interesting varieties of 3D puzzles. Ravensburger has great examples, for instance its “Night Light”, a puzzle to put together a lamp, or their collection of 3D Puzzle buildings, featuring real architecture from all around the world.
Normally, once a puzzle is finished, the play value is done. However, nowadays there are more and more varieties of puzzles that offer options for children and adults to continue playing with the product. In this sense, Goula presented in the last Spielwarenmesse an XXL puzzle with an extra element (a red transparent turtle) that allow the player to discover hidden animals placed around the puzzle.
Another option, beyond the physical object, are the puzzles that integrate Augmented Reality (AR), so the player can interact with a digital element after the main game of building the puzzle has finished. Sometimes these puzzles have a double function: they are fun but also educational. For example, the company Playautoma has wonderful world map interactive puzzles that allow the discovery of relevant facts about continents, countries, flags, currencies, and much more.
Increase in the variety of materials and finishes
Even if cardboard is still the main material used in puzzles (in some cases now made from recycled cardboard), the number of options in which they are manufactured have multiplied, and with that, the possibilities to play with puzzles have increased as well.
For instance, with the use of EVA foam, children can play with puzzles in the bath tub. That is the case of world map puzzles commercialized by Janod or Alex toys. Interestingly, there are plastic puzzles made to be played with at the bottom of a pool. The Underwater Puzzle developed by Garrett Beach Towne is presented as a swimming and diving pool toy.
Another feature that is growing in popularity is the “glow in the dark” effect. Children and adults are surprised and delighted when their puzzle lights up when the light is turned off. This is the case of toys such as “Glow in the dark Puzzle”, by Mudpuppy. This offers a different experience, not only related to the final product, but also related to the way to play, in the dark!
Related to materials and finishes, the trend goes to intensifying tactile features in puzzles. Most relevant companies are making puzzles that have different textures on their pieces, which increases the type of interaction and playability of the toy, and even the therapeutic aspect of these games. Interestingly, in some cases, the packaging for this kind of puzzle also has tactile elements on it.
Finally, another aspect is how well companies are applying social trends to the category of puzzles. For instance, based on the popularity of escape rooms and mystery solving, I can name products such as the Escape puzzles from Ravensburger, or the original Wasgij? Mystery puzzle by Jumbo in which the player has to put together, not the image they can see on the packaging, but what they imagine the image will be after the presented situation happens.
The increase in climate change concerns is featured in puzzles such as one the company eeBoo presented in the Spielwarenmesse® 2020. The search for mindfulness is also a source of inspiration for new puzzles, for instance with puzzles such as “Pixel” by Cloudberries.
New generation of puzzles has increased play value
Even if puzzles are a traditional toy, there are amazing opportunities to implement innovations in a way that not only increases their play value but also their general appeal for the current generation of consumers.