Games Anatomy -- Deconstructing Success in Children’s Games


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Presented at Kidscreen iKids Conference February 2013 in New York City.

With so many games available, how can you tell which ones kids will graviate toward? In this presentation, Dr. Carla Fisher explores the market’s bestselling apps and digital games for children to ID what makes them great—be it game mechanics, marketing techniques, user analytics, interface design, or other innovative features. Be part of the process and you’ll take away a diagnostic tool kit you can use to evaluate your own project and third-party games.

Read more at our blog Kids Got Game on Kidscreen:

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  • So in all seriousness, there’s a lot of pieces that go into the success of any product, let alone a game. I’ll talk through a number of these ideas today. However, I’m not going to focus on developmental needs or how to address educational topics specifically. If that’s something you’re interested in, we’ve blogged about it from time to time and I have archives from other talks. Just ping me and I can share more with you. And there’s time for questions.Meanwhile, I’m going to focus on top apps and what’s interesting there, as well as some breakouts that we find discussion-worthy for various reasons. So getting right into it…
  • So let’s start with Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. My design is inspired by Bloomberg TV so we’ve got lots of information going on here. There’s no one place to get good intel on how these apps are performing, unless you can just call the developer and get them to talk. App AnnieGoogle PlayAmazon StoreApple Store info
  • 1/14/12Strategy side of things: Multi-platform and simultaneous releases
  • Talk about multiplatform, efficiencies of developing for multiple platforms, and exclusive store deals. DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: CO-PLAY, EXPLORATORYOver 5 million downloads total so far.Has hit overall #1 as well as entertainment category #1Sequel, Toca Hair Salon 2 has reached #1 in 90 countries for Education (iPhone) and #1 in 31 countries overall (iPad)Amazon exclusive window (?)Others: Toca Tailor, Toca Fairy Tales, Toca DoctorFeatures:Exploratory playRole playingNo third party advertisingNo in app purchasesPersonalizationNo rules or time limitsDoes limited time run of free apps to drive interest
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: CO-PLAY, EXPLORATORYTalk about exploratory and role play features.
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: BRANDED, VIDEO (appisodes, Leo’s Pad), Faux interactivity via amplitude measuresFree/purely promotionalFeatures:Full episode of the show with embedded activitiesThis makes for a large file size (512 mb)Personalization is great for kids – nice use of sound wav display that gets around issues of actually recording
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: BRANDED This is very straightforward math. Do you want to go up against a heavy hitter like Disney with a simple math app?Features:Cost $2.99 *and many would argue has fewer features/less content than Road Rally*Activities aimed at counting and sequencing numbersWord by word highlightingPicture takingStory extension activities for parents and caregivers*FYI haven’t played this but the reviews are pretty bad - not like Road Rally*
  • Look for opportunities in the market (Shuler, 2012)
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: PLAYFUL LITERACYBrings up the question of doing things differently, even when you’re doing something fairly standardFeatures:Sound toyPlay with the letter-creatures and watch and listen how they interact with each other or use them to produce soundscapesPhysicsCommon Sense Media:There is enough complexity in this game to keep kids interested for a while, or to cause an adult to fiddle for a time. The tutorial is very clear in explaining how the app works, but leaves a few of the surprises for the player to figure out.Giggle AppsPeople might dismiss abcdefg, but if you look closer at what the app actually provides, I think you’ll find that it’s an invaluable tool for kids. In the app, you’re a conductor of sound, and you learn concepts like pitch and tempo. You also get a quick into to physics, seeing how the different letters move and interact with each other, things you don’t often see in “kid” apps these days. iPhone FreakAbcdefg… will see you return when you have a spare moment, as the experimentation aspect is quite fun, although its long-term appeal may only be applicable to those who get the most from it musically.  It’s likely to be a hit with young kids in a learning environment too, as the alphabet will become fun. 
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: PERSONALIZATIONMemory games are everywhere, but this is a nice version because it makes it something different by including your own photos
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: PERSONALIZATIONAlso from Oceanhouse MediaFeatures:Story with personalized picturesTake new pictures or add from your libraryPersonalization is great for egocentric preschoolers
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: GOOD BASIC LITERACY DESIGN$14.99 purchase price – contains 5 books (Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Fox in Socks, The FOOT Book, Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You? Features:Individual Word HighlightIndividual word tap on (a la Lorax)Does NOT have record featurePersonalization (recording feature) can also support literacy learning
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: ADDED PERSONALIZATION (RECORD AND SHARE) FEATUREInstall map for google$3.99 purchase price – contains 1 storyFeatures:Individual Word HighlightIndividual word tap on (a la Lorax)Record and share feature - Personalization can also support literacy learning (looks like this feature is iOS only)
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: PLAYFUL LITERACYTalking about playing good casual gamesThis is “Giant Hungry Rainbow Beaver”Features:Playful use of language, fostering love of literacy
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: BRANDED, APPLIES TO MANY CATEGORIESHuge worldwide brand Features:Retail $4.99Very deep and rich experience40+ levelsFamiliar elements from the stories
  • Preschool friendly versions of great games
  • Achievements…
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: REWARDS SYSTEMEarly to marketFeatures:Progress tracking BUT progress tracking doesn’t always have to be right and wrong answers.
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: AGGREGATION and parent dashboardsFeatures:Collection of curriculum-based gamesBased on Common Core StandardsProgress reports/report cardsParental and classroom dashboard tracks study timeIn-app purchase model for gamesAlso discuss YogiPlay, Fingerprint, iLearnWith
  • Moving into the practicalities of creating an app…. Thinking of how it will be used… DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: IN-APP PURCHASESIn-App Purchases require thoughtful gatesTake steps to avoid a smurfberry situation
  • TRANSITION… DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: MULTI-TOUCHiPad: #1 in Education in 17 countriesFeatures:Asks kids to put down a certain number of fingersSimple addition and subtractionTakes advantage of multi-touchPress Here is another one that’s taking great advantage of multi touch and is very experiential, even with air hockey.
  • Press Here is another one that’s taking great advantage of multi touch and is very experiential, even with air hockey.
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: FREE VS. FULL VERSIONSColorforms RevolutionPaid HD version reached top 5 in 1 country (iPad only)GameCenter tie (is that interesting??)
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: RANKING AND CURATION (GETTING YOUR APPS INTO THESE?)#1 in Education in 1 country (iPad)Reached top 5 in Education in 1 country (iPhone)FeaturesGuide to finding and curating educational appsSearch for apps by subject, age, and price
  • DISTINGUISHING FEATURE: MARKETING IMAGES IN STORE (RATHER THAN STRAIGHT SCREEN SHOTS)Nick Jr. Draw & PlayFeatures:Animated stickers of familiar branded characters (Multiple Propertes -- Dora, Team Umizoomi, Bubble Guppies)Sticker book/drawingHD Version also on the marketEncourages sharing on Facebook, email, and by printing finished artwork (CARLA CHECK THIS OUT)
  • Reviews! Both from home users and professionals
  • PBS Parents on the Let – Games and Activities based on specific seriesDeveloping extension materials that tie to games, interactive products, and provide offline experience for kids and their parentsThe right is a Dinosaur Train Nature Club kids can join to get an e-newsletter with activites
  • Showed up in Free Featured Games in Family category. I’m a sucker for a cute cloud, so I clicked on it.
  • Games Anatomy -- Deconstructing Success in Children’s Games

    1. 1. Funem Extremulous MarketusDevelopmenti ReachinumPsycologistic Usabilitiem Constantum Educo Curriculonormous Lucko LeprechaunulusGame’s Anatomy: Deconstructing Success in Children’s Mobile Games Carla Fisher, Ed.D., No Crusts Interactive
    2. 2. 2 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    3. 3. Education categoryiPhone: #1 (94 countries) No Crusts Interactive 2013iPad: #1 (108 countries)Google Play: #1 (3countries) 3 iPhone: 8/31/09Monkey Preschool Lunchbox Google Play: 11/29/11
    4. 4. No Crusts Interactive 2013Education categoryiPhone: #1 (2 countries)iPad: #1 (10 countries)Google Play: No ranking ineducation. Top 100 inCasual (34 countries) 1k-5k installs 4 iOS: 10/24/12Monkey Word School Adventure Google Play: 10/25/12
    5. 5. Education category iPhone: #1 (90 countries) No Crusts Interactive 2013 iPad: #1 (99 countries) Overall iPhone: #1 (3 countries) iPad: #1 (31 countries) 5 iOS: 12/3/12Toca Hair Salon 2 Amazon Kindle Store: 12/13/12
    6. 6. Toca-Like Apps 6 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    7. 7. No Crusts Interactive 2013Education categoryiPad: #1 (13 countries)OveralliPad: #1 (3 countries) 7Mickey Mouse Clubhouse iOS: 4/24/12Road Rally Appisode Google Play: n/a
    8. 8. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Education category iPhone: #1 (37 countries) iPad: #1 (74 countries) Overall iPad: #1 (11 countries) 8 iOS: 11/15/12Mickey’s Wildlife Count Along Google Play: n/a
    9. 9. 9iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apple’sApp Store, Shuler 2012 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    10. 10. Entertainment category No Crusts Interactive 2013iPhone: #1 (1 country)iPad: #1 (1 country)ReviewsHands down awesomeAlmost endless possibilities with this.Hours of fun, no joke.Terrible 10This app has no depth. It’s not music youmake… This app is not worthy of its price. iOS: 3/1/10abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Google Play: n/a
    11. 11. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Card category iPhone: Top ten in 1 country 11 iOS: 12/13/10Tiny Terrors at Christmas Google Play: n/a
    12. 12. No Crusts Interactive 2013Books categoryiPhone: #1 (1 country)iPad: Top ten (1 country)Reached top 5 in paidbooks on iPhone 12 iOS: 2/14/12Cute As Can Be Google Play: n/a
    13. 13. No Crusts Interactive 2013Book categoryiPhone: #1 (1 country) Top 5 (6 countries)iPad: #1 (8 countries) Top 5 (20 countries) 13Dr. Seuss Beginner Book iOS: 2/1/12Collection #1 Google Play: n/a
    14. 14. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Book category iPhone: #1 (24 countries) iPad: #1 (46 countries) Google Play: #1 (30 countries) 14 iOS: 2/1/12The Cat in the Hat Google Play: 11/10/11
    15. 15. No Crusts Interactive 2013Puzzle categoryiPhone: #1 (1 country)iPad: #1 (1 country)Word categoryiPhone: #1 (35 countries)Overall 15iPhone: #1 (1 country) iOS: 10/12/11Scribblenauts Remix Google Play: n/a
    16. 16. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Kids category iPhone: #1 (48 countries) iPad: #1 (57 countries) Games category iPad: #1 (8 countries) 16 iOS: 11/19/10Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 Google Play: n/a
    17. 17. No Crusts Interactive 2013 17Contre Jour & Monster Math: Little Wally Ball-y Ball
    18. 18. No Crusts Interactive 2013Games categoryiPhone: #1 (97 countries)iPad: #1 (113 countries)OveralliPhone: #1 (54 countries)iPad: #1 (97 countries)Google Play: Top 5 Overall (1 18country)Top 5 Game (4 countries) 100k-500k installs iOS: 1/20/10 (iPhone), 4/1/20 (iPad)Plants vs Zombies Google Play: 12/22/11
    19. 19. No Crusts Interactive 2013Education categoryiPhone: #1 (2 countries)iPad: #1 (10 countries)OveralliPad: #1 (1 country) 19 iOS: 11/11/10Teach Me: 1st Grade Google Play: n/a
    20. 20. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Education category iPad: #1 (18 countries) Top 5 (79 countries) 20 iOS: 3/6/12Agnitus Google Play: n/a
    21. 21. No Crusts Interactive 2013 21Gates on In-App Purchases & Parent Dashboards
    22. 22. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Education category iPad: #1 (17 countries) Top 5 in 55 countries Overall iPad: #1 (1 country) Top 5 in 6 countries 22 iOS: 7/12/12Little Digits Google Play: n/a
    23. 23. No Crusts Interactive 2013 Education category iPad: Top 5 (3 countries) Reviews This is Magic There are 15 games in this, and each one is playful, imaginative, and open-ended-- this is possibly the only app any kid really needs.. 23 Too confusing It’s not clear at all how this app works whether you’re an adult or a toddler. Not worth a penny IMHO. iOS: 4/11/12Press Here Google Play: n/a
    24. 24. Phone vs. Tablet Layouts 24 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    25. 25. No Crusts Interactive 2013 25Marketing: Free vs. Full Versions
    26. 26. Marketing: Partnerships 26 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    27. 27. No Crusts Interactive 2013 27Marketing: Informational Screenshots
    28. 28. Marketing: Reviews! 28 No Crusts Interactive 2013
    29. 29. No Crusts Interactive 2013 29Marketing: Twitter and YouTube Presence
    30. 30. No Crusts Interactive 2013 30Marketing: Educational Materials
    31. 31. No Crusts Interactive 2013 31Marketing: Localization strategies (and visual instructions)
    32. 32. Questions? No Crusts Interactive 2013• e:• t: @noCrusts• blog: Kids Got Game (Kidscreen) 33 Special thanks to Anne Richards and Natalie Golub