Kids and Families Reach for New Mobile Interactive Media Options

Reyne Rice, toy trend expert, attended the First Annual Children’s App Design Institute (“App Camp 2010”) Conference in Monterey, California earlier this month.  In this report, she shares with members of the toy industry her observations of how “App Fever” is taking hold in the toys, games, entertainment and licensing markets. 

With over 185,000 iPhone Apps and over 4000 iPad Apps available in early May 2010, and predictions from DFC Intelligence that games for the iPhone/iTouch/iPad platforms will be the principle driving force in the mobile games market five years from now, the overall mobile gaming market will continue to grow.  DFC, a research firm for the video game and entertainment industry, anticipates that revenues from mobile games will grow from $46 million in 2008 to $2.8 billion in 2014. However, the percentage owned by portable gaming devices like the Play Station is expected to shrink.

Frequently, younger caregivers – who are digital natives themselves – have no qualms about sharing their iPhones with their preschool children and toddlers to keep them engaged for car rides, grocery store trips or in waiting rooms. As children watch their parents, siblings and caregivers use digital media tools in everyday situations, it is only natural for them to want to role-play and emulate those same activities.

As a result, iPhone apps designed for the skill sets of children ages 2 and up are being created.  For example, a new developer Duck Duck Moose, created Old MacDonald, Wheels on the Bus and Itsy Bitsy Spider interactive storybook apps for the iPhone, which have consistently been ranked as best-selling apps on the Apple iTunes store. The books incorporate multiple interactions that children find fascinating, with engaging and intuitive interfaces that encourage exploration and discovery.

New research by the NPD Group confirms that kids who digitally download content are likely to also purchase a related physical product.  Retailers are capitalizing on this trend by tracking the best-selling kids and family apps on the iTunes App store and stocking up on the physical products that bring favorite characters and well-loved content to life with classic books, games, soft plush characters or other categories of licensed products.

Book-sellers; specialty retailers; airport, hotel, university and hospital gift shops are all examples of alternative retail outlets that have added travel size and full-size physical board and dice games to their shelves to complement best-selling apps for mobile games. Electronic Arts creates apps to support over a dozen Hasbro Games classics such as Scrabble, Clue, Game of Life, Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, Monopoly Here N Now: World Edition, and Yahtzee Adventure games. ThinkFun offers both physical and mobile Rush Hour and Rush Hour Deluxe games, and is launching more options in Summer 2010. Mattel has produced Uno in both formats, and Around the Table Games created Family Talk as dual options. One of the newest storytelling “everyone-wins-with-open-ended-play” dice games for 2010, Rory’s StoryCubes, distributed in the USA by Ceaco/Gamewright, is also available in a compact dice format in both physical and mobile choices.

The goal of App Camp 2010 was to bring together hardware and software developers, reviewers and publishers, and others passionate about creating interactive media for kids. Apps were demonstrated, reviewed, and discussed across all forms of interactive media platforms including computers, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, Android, Nintendo DS, PlayStation PSP Go, and more. Newbies and industry legends joined forces to compare notes on the Dust and the Magic in this emerging segment of interactive playthings for kids.

“We have seen that the tsunami of multi-touch devices that were released over the last two years have already gained rapid adoption rates, and this is fueling a huge interest in interactive applications for kids,” explained Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children’s Technology Review, and App Camp facilitator.  “This new wave of technology has also given rise to a new breed of tech-preneurs, many of whom are young parents themselves, who are creating kids products with their own tech-friendly young children in mind.”
With so many available screens and media platforms, consumer’s loyalties will be won by the most enriching and relevant experiences. It’s up to the brand and property stewards to understand how consumers are spending their time at each new touch point and to entertain them there, using the best of the medium to create the experience.