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Role Playing (Games) Businesses The Internet Toys

Disney, Stuffed Animals, Draw Kids to Online Games 20

CNN Money has up a piece looking at the next defining force in online games; neither Blizzard nor Lord of the Rings Online has their attention: it's all about stuffed animals. 'Tweens', as they're called, are a hugely influential market and game-makers are finally responding with online spaces keyed to their interests. Titles like Club Penguin and WebKinz allow older kids their freedom while still providing a safe place to play. Outfits like Disney and Nickelodeon are getting into the fray, and with good reason. Tweens, the article estimates, are a $40 billion demographic. "Club Penguin and Webkinz trumpet their sites as safe, ad-free environments. Disney and Nickelodeon are more frankly commercial and--in a big shift--ad-supported. Marketing to kids is always tricky; no one wants to be seen shilling to children. And whether the kids will buy the branded content, or the products advertised, remains to be seen. But the biggest question hovering over this whole market is what the kids will want in the future--like next week. The most carefully crafted strategies can be blown up by an overnight shift in whatever adolescents deem cool. "
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Disney, Stuffed Animals, Draw Kids to Online Games

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  • "I get all my homework done during recess because then I can go home and play Webkinz"

    Oh, yeah, sign my kid up. Nothing I want more than to have a kid that spends her recess time doing homework so that she can play some inane game on the computer where online furry things get to play outdoors while she's stuck inside. No need for her to have any downtime, time to recharge and decomress in the middle of her schoolwork.

    Oh, well, I guess that's practice for when the ozone is completely gone and nobody is allow
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      Heh, I used to do this when I was in high school. I did my "new" homeworks during lunch hours so I didn't have to do them at home.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think the bigger problem is marketing to young kids who have just gained (some limited) purchasing power.

      Friends of mine have three boys, aged 8 to 12. They're allowed 20 minutes of screen time per weekday. They can allocate it all to TV, the computer or a combination of both. This solves many things:

      - the boys don't fight over using the screens as there's only an hour of time to divide between them
      - they learn to be selective of what they want to do with their time
      - they learn to be very efficient at
      • That's not too bad, presuming that the kids can pool their screentime resources. I would hope the the screen time would include a DVR for television watching, as 20 minutes makes for either issing the beginning of a show, or missing the end.

        We've only got one child, so she gets quite a bit more "screen" time, and though its heavily regulated she tends not to notice - of course, she's 4 so there are fewer outside pressures even with preschool peers. With TiVo, she only knows of programs we record (I love the
  • Because kids today really do need to be marketed at more. It's not like they're already being bombarded by corporate culture enough.
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
      Consider the advantages of having kids hooked to the screen for hours on end to an unregulated media delivery format, the opportunities for subliminal advertising are endless.

      The current big drive is raunch (yes it is a bad as it sounds), and getting it started as early as possible, because it basically markets consumables, like alcohol and junk food as well as entertainment of the music and movies variety.

      Be warned, subliminal advertising at an early age means the amoral and immoral marketdroids will h

  • Webkinz sucks (Score:3, Informative)

    by mkcmkc ( 197982 ) on Monday March 26, 2007 @03:40PM (#18491765)
    I've been watching my kids get involved with these with a mixture of amusement and dread.

    One notable observation so far: Webkinz sucks. When a child forgets their username ("Who could have imagined that this could happen?"), there's no way to retrieve or reset it. Attempts to re-register with the secret code draw an error. An attempt to reach tech support got me one illiterate, useless response three days later, followed by nothing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      An attempt to reach tech support got me one illiterate, useless response three days later, followed by nothing.

      Just look at it as training for when your kid grows up and has to cancel his/her AOL account...

  • So they are combining their own version of Beanie Babies with a MMOPG? I see this making them lots of money if it catches on. The only question is has enough time from the last Beanie Baby crazy lapsed for those that are into that sort of thing to be into this version?

    I don't even want to think about the number of Beanie Babie that my mom has. I could easily see folks like her going out and collecting all of these toys and then going to the companies MMOPG to register all her babies with the company.
  • Finicky market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vulva R. Thompson, P ( 1060828 ) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:42PM (#18492691)
    I cancelled my 8-year old daughter's Toontown account this morning because she hadn't been playing for a while (at $9.95 a month). The cancellation went smoothly and we got to the point where they asked why we were cancelling.

    I said because she's into the "penguin" site and just lost interest in Toontown. "Oh yeah, I've been hearing about the penguins quite a bit lately" was her answer. (i.e. clubpenguin mentioned in tfa)

    Note that there was a lot of work put into her Toontown character. It's like WOW in that the character needs to be developed and leveled. However, my daughter and her classmates had no problem simply dumping their character and moving on en masse. The time investment is viewed differently at that age.

    Before penguins, Webkinz was all the rage but it now also sits idle. It's a classic fad where there's a window of opportunity to grab the market but the finicky age demographic here makes it really brutal to keep them like WOW does. There are grownups I know that would literally cry if they lost their WOW account whereas these kids would just move on to the next thing without batting an eyelash.

    On another topic, all of this was accomplished with a strict one-hour a day regimen, after homework and casual reading time, etc. Imho, the positive aspect is that they focus intently and stick to the tasks involved for an extended period of time (i.e. one sitting). The negative is that after a month of play, they don't reach an endgame where there's a complete sense of "getting the job done". But there's still a pretty good sense of accomplishment along the way (for what you could expect in this age range).

  • Anyone marketing a product at young impressionable kids with the intent of fleecing their parents for cash have a special place in hell.
  • Castle Infinity (Score:2, Informative)

    by neminem ( 561346 )
    Meanwhile, Castle Infinity is completely free, is way more fun than Castle Penguin, and is completely free.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.