More than half of all children in the UK own a physical toy based on free-to-play and subscription-based virtual worlds like Club Penguin and Mind Candy's Moshi Monsters, according to a new study by Dubit Research.
The firm surveyed 500 kids and found that 55 percent of them have at least one toy that interacts with these titles -- children typically purchase the toys and receive a code that will unlock a virtual version of the character or creature in an online world.
Disney's Club Penguin, which has picked up over 150 million registered users globally since launching in 2005, is the most popular of the virtual worlds; some 32 percent of kids polled said they own a branded toy that connects to the MMORPG.
Mind Candy's Moshi Monsters comes in second, with more than a quarter of UK children surveyed reporting that they own a Moshi Monster or Moshling toy. The game has attracted more than 50 million registered players since debuting in 2008.
For comparison, a recent survey by Toy News found that 25 percent of UK kids own toys based on the Dr. Who series, 29 percent own toys based on SpongeBob SquarePants, and 20 percent own toys based on the Ben 10 cartoons.
Other games participants said they've purchased toys for include Build-a-BearVille, Poptropica, and Webkinz. 73 percent of the study's participants said the've played at least one virtual world (50 percent have played Club Penguin, 47 percent have played Moshi Monsters).
"Children are spending more time playing in virtual worlds and now those worlds are becoming part of their offline playtime," says Dubit's head of research Peter Robinson.
"Today's kids are platform agnostic and don't care where their favorite stories and characters come from. It used to be the case that books or TV shows launched characters and toys, but now online entertainment is proving just as important."
The trend of interfacing physical toys with digital games has seen quite a bit of traction this year, thanks to Activision's Skylanders, one of the company's key initiatives this holiday season.