MP-3 Barbie Girls

NEW YORK - Mattel Inc. is using technology to surface with a new twist on a toy launched in 1959 to appeal to today's Web-savvy, multimedia girl shoppers.

Mattel revealed Barbie Girls, a doll-shaped MP3 player that turns into a live character at, a Web site where girls can relate with each other in a style reminiscent of Second Life, the virtual world for adults.

The company expects the new toy, which takes together Web surfing, shopping and music downloads, will cool require for rival MGA Entertainment's sassy Bratz dolls -- a line of big-headed, skinny dolls with scant, trendy clothing.

The world's major toy maker is also taking aim at Apple Inc.'s iPod music players and Ganz's Webkinz, wooly animal toys that come alive online.

The official launch of came a week after the company gave it a public test run.

Toy analysts say this latest addition to the 48-year-old Barbie line should be a hot seller, helping the brand overturn nearly five years of declining sales.


Revitalizing the Barbie brand has been a most important priority for Mattel, who has seen her former target audience defect not only to Bratz, but also to flashier, modern items such as iPods and video games.

The Barbie Girls music players, which can hold up to 120 MP3 or 240 WMA-file songs, come up to market in July and will cost $59.99, Mattel said.

At, users can modify their characters' looks and styles. They can also go to the online mall and shop for clothes, accessories and furniture for their online room. Users can even adopt a pet.

But further importantly, Rice added: "I think parents are going to like the safe online portal."

To ensure girls' security in public chats, Mattel planed a limited vocabulary of 2,000 words the girls can use on the site, designed to prevent use of sexual language, vulgarity or upsetting words such as "stupid" or "hate."

Filters also stop users from giving out private information including names, phone numbers or even the cities where they live. Only in private chats with a "best friend" can a girl tell personal information.