Archive for the 'Kids’ Related Research' Category

Tween Virtual Worlds by the Numbers

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The Top 10 Tween Virtual World and MMO destinations which include Wizard 101, Minecraft, Roblox, Pirate101, Club Penguin, Moviestar Planet, Poptropica, AnimalJam, Webkinz, Fantage

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted some data on the virtual world space for tweens. I’ve been curious about a number of worlds and how they have been doing. Some questions that have been on my mind; How has Wizard101 been doing since the launch of it’s newer Pirate101 property? Has Roblox been growing and how has it’s traffic been in comparison to Minecraft? How have the Marvel and Star Wars designs worked out for Club Penguin? These are just a few questions, but what often happens as you start tabulating the data, may more questions start to emerge, along with some interesting findings. Let’s take a look.

A few immediate observations (see chart below). Wizard101 is crushing it! Their unique visitor stats (“uniques”) are off the charts! The big question I’ve had for the last year or so, can KingsIsle maintain it’s growth with two virtual worlds instead of eroding traffic from one to give to the other? In the first six months of Pirate101 it looked like Pirate was cannibalizing traffic from Wizard. Not so for the last three months. Both worlds appear to be growing in traffic very nicely together, and it appears without any cannibalization.

Chart - Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds Comparing Unique Visitor Data
Chart 1 – Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds – Comparing Unique Visitor Data. (Click image to see larger version of the chart.)

Another finding, it looks like unique traffic to Roblox has been following Minecraft’s growth pretty evenly. Roblox edged out Minecraft this past December and May, just a wee bit, and now they are neck-and-neck for the month of July.

While Poptropica’s numbers are still very nice, we’re not seeing the usual summertime climb in traffic. I find this a little odd.

Similar flat growth for Club Penguin during this summer, but they broke an all time record this past April, reaching the highest level of traffic ever in their history! The December before they also broke that record. Some nice high numbers, which I would also expect to see in July again.

Animal Jam continues its very steady slow climb. Always nice to see the upward trend here, even if it is small. Slow and steady wins the race!

What’s also interesting about Chart 1 is what it does not say. For the month of July Moshi Monsters didn’t place in the Top 10. Neither did MonkeyQuest, or for that matter the other two Viacom worlds as well, including PetPet Park and NeoPets. (More on Moshi in a moment.)

Chart - Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds - Cumulative Unique Visitor Data
Chart 2 – Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds – Cumulative Unique Visitor Data. (Click image to see larger version of the chart.)

From December 2011 to December 2012 unique traffic almost doubled to 50 million uniques across these ten worlds. The cumulative traffic for July 2013 is just over 55 million uniques! Compare that with July 2011′s numbers of just about 21 million uniques and you can see the overall growth in the tween virtual world space. However, the majority of the growth appears to be coming from Wizard101, Minecraft, Roblox, and Pirate101.

Chart - Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds - Cumulative Unique Visitor Data
Chart 3 – Top 10 Tween Virtual Worlds – Percentage of Marketshare based on Unique Visitor Data. (Click image to see larger version of the chart.)

This marketshare chart above demonstrates how Wizard101, Pirate101, Minecraft and Roblox control almost 60% of the uniques combined for tween virtual worlds in the US. You can also notice some erosion with Webkinz and Fantage over time.

Chart - Moshi Monsters - Lifetime Unique Visitor
Chart 4 – Moshi Monsters – Lifetime Unique Visitor. (Click image to see larger version of the chart.)

Now let’s take a deeper look at Moshi Monsters. Why didn’t they place in the Top 10? The chart above shows the lifetime uniques for the destination within the US, more than five and a half years of data. You will notice that Moshi had a really great spring. Huge traffic! However, that traffic almost evaporated during the last two months. Let me remind you, the summer months in the US are a time for big numbers, not small. When this happens the first thing I often question is the validity of the Compete data for those months. The trouble is I’ve been using Compete for so long I’ve noticed they rarely get two months of back-to-back data wrong. It could happen, but I’m doubtful that’s the problem. Whatever the reason, it is a surprise to see after such a stellar rise in the spring.

These are just a few of the many stories that could be told with this data. There are many more stories to be told when you look at the data together with the hundreds of other worlds I follow as well. Especially when you break out the data by category (casual gaming, creative expression, education, sports, etc.) Do you see anything of interest with these charts? Do you see a story that needs to be told? If so, be sure to post a response in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

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360KID Learning Game Trends at Casual Connect

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Casual Connect is an annual conference in the US that explores the business and development of casual games. This conference also travels to Europe and Singapore. This year’s US event recently held in Seattle, had a day long track focused on Children & Family Entertainment. 360KID CEO Scott Traylor was asked to deliver a presentation on trends and best practices for developing learning games. The video below is a recording of his talk called “Technology, Kids, & Learning: The Future and the Opportunities”.

Links to specific research cited in this presentation are listed below.

Do you need help developing a learning game for the classroom or just need some advice for creating a consumer-based learning game? Be it online, offline, electronic toy, iOS or Andriod, give us a call.

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View from the Sandbox through the lens of Scott Traylor

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

[Wendy Smolen is a contributing writer to the KidScreen blog. She is also a friend and the co-founder of the annual children's conference called Sandbox Summit. Wendy asked if I would share some thoughts with her regarding the latest Sandbox Summit event held at MIT. Originally published to the KidScreen blog on April 25, 2012.]

Scott Traylor, Chief Kid at 360KID, had the daunting job of taping the recent Sandbox Summit@MIT, Going Mobile, Going Global, Tracking the anywhere/everywhere state of play. While this gave him a front and center seat, it also meant he had to listen to every word (no bathroom breaks!) I asked him to comment on a few of his favorite presentations.

Generally I find conferences don’t provide a helpful starting point about how kids are changing. Not so here. Allison Arling’s presentation from The Intelligence Group covered uncounted aspects of generational preferences with Gen Y and Gen Z. I found myself nodding in agreement as she communicated subtle differences in media consumption, messaging that resonates with a generation, and triggers for engagement across generational divides that can make or break any media plan. Clear, crisp, exact. (Or whatever.)

Allison’s presentation provided the scaffolding used by many of the other speakers. On day two, Jane Gould of Nickelodeon delivered a resounding kids’ media data punch . Jane always has access to great info, and she’s willing to share! Ever wonder what apps are most popular with kids, and why? What kinds of media do kids consume on tablets? What barriers will prevent media consumption on a tablet but not on television? What is consumption like on non-Apple devices? The answers were startling and maybe the most detailed and in-depth I’ve seen in the mobile/tablet/apps space ever. Jane made understanding the drivers of mobile media consumption a no-brainer.

Gaming and learning was a common thread in conversations both inside and outside the auditorium. Eric Zimmerman, game designer and industry thought leader, challenged us to rethink long-standing assumptions about learning games. Eric delivered one media mind bomb after another, the biggest being why educators challenge the value and potential for learning in games at all. Why is this one tool for creative expression challenged more than others? Why is it so many in education, as well as in business, wish to “gamify” learning? Should we have similar concerns about books in learning? Should we “bookify” learning? That’s crazy talk, and so is the current conversation about the potential games have to teach. Books are just one element of learning, why aren’t games?

These are just three small samples of a larger conversation. There’s no way I can do justice to all the intriguing thoughts each presenter brought to the conversation over the two days. If you missed attending this event, watch one—or all—of the videos here. You’ll be as amazed as I was at what you‘ll learn.

Disclosure: Scott Traylor is the founder of 360KID, a children’s interactive media company. Scott is also on the Board of Advisors for the Sandbox Summit. He captured the video being shared in this article’s links.

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Research Watch – Children and Screens

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

[The following is an article I wrote for the November 2011 issue of Children's Technology Review.]

This last month was a big one for new research unveiled about kids and media use, a least in terms of Google new alerts. Here’s a look beyond the headlines.

Event #1: The AAP Position Statement

Ari Brown, MD presents the updated AAP Policy Statement for media use and children ages zero to two years old

In mid-October the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) made a statement regarding media use for young children ages 0 to 2 years of age at the AAP National Conference held in Boston. Media research fans may remember the AAP released a position statement over a decade ago stating screened media use for children ages 0 to 2 should be avoided entirely because there is no proof that television can be of educational value to children at such an early age. Fast forward to last month and the policy statement is pretty much the same. TV at this early age is still not educational. But hasn’t the media delivery landscape evolved from passive to interactive? What about all of those iPhones, iPads, tablets and other mobile devices? Should young children avoid using these devices as well? The AAP was much more presentation savvy with their announcement this time around, however. They acknowledged in their press announcement that the realities of being a parent with a young child mean that sometimes a television is used to pacify a child so the parent can take a shower or cook dinner. The AAP acknowledges that screen use is almost at two hours a day for some the youngest media consumers. However, the AAP could not make any recommendations related to interactive media. While there is a mountain of research available related to linear video viewing, there just aren’t many studies available regarding interactive screen use, for any age group.

Event #2: Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America

Vicky Rideout presents the latest media use findings for children ages zero to eight years old

Exactly one week after that AAP press event Common Sense Media held its own media event in Washington DC: a survey of families regarding the use of media with children 0 to 8 years of age. This time, the survey considered interactive media useage. You may recall that Vicky Rideout used to work with the Kaiser Family Foundation, and was a lead researcher on a series of studies related to children, media use, and health. She coordinated three 5-year surveys of media use across a wide range of platforms, ages, ethnicities and socio-economic groups. When Vicky announced in March, 2010 that she would be moving on from Kaiser, the media research space collectively wondered “Would we ever see another five year media study again?” Thankfully we recently found out the answer was a resounding yes! Not only did this new report cover areas of concern by the AAP, but it also provided great insight into the iPad/iPhone/mobile and interactive screened media world for kids. One of the most shocking data points in this study was the percentage of televisions found in a child’s bedroom. 30% of all children age 0 to 1, 44% of all children ages 2 to 4, and 47% of children ages 5 to 8 have a television in their bedroom! The scariest part of this data is these numbers are just averages. When you tease out percentages for ethnic groups and low-income families these numbers rise, and by a lot!

Another surprising data point was the percentage of children that have used interactive devices like the iPad. That number is only 7%. A handful of people have asked me, “Is that right?” First, this number is an average across all ages and as you slice the data the percentages rise as a child ages and lower for younger children. Again, this percentage drops significantly with ethnic groups and low-income families. What we also learn from this number is that television is a primary source of educational content for non-white and lower income families. The question I ask an eager iPad development community “Are we creating apps in an attempt to provide really great learning opportunities for all children when the reality is only a small sliver of economically advantaged children actually benefit from our apps?” Another surprising number, among the poorest households 38% of respondents didn’t know what an “app” was. This paper describes a new trend referred to the “app gap.” Those of us working in the children’s software space have long theorized that kids are spending more time with interactive media, games, handhelds and iPads and less time watching television. This latest report says no, television is still very much the leading device, alive and well more than we ever could have imagined. But wait, that’s a research slice in time that has already passed! In conversations with Vicky she suggests that the world of screened media for kids, be it interactive or passive, is changing very fast. Reports she was part of that came out every five years are not able to accurately capture the incremental changes in the children’s technology space. Thankfully additional reports may be on the horizon in two, probably three more years says Vicky.

So what are the main take-aways? Television is still very prominent in the lives of children ages 0 to 8. Just three years ago researchers were not aware of the influence the app concept would have in the children’s media space. Apps didn’t exist. Change is happening, but not equally for all children. Television still remains the best way to reach young children with educational content, especially children in socio-economically disadvantaged homes. However, there is now no doubt that interactive media is changing the media landscape.

Referenced research links:

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Peeking Under the Cloak of Wizard101

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

[The following is an article I wrote for the September 2011 issue of Children's Technology Review. If you’re interested in the new 360KID Q2 2011 virtual world report, you can purchase the full report, which includes an expanded Wizard101 interview, by emailing me at scott (at) 360KID (dot) com with "Virtual World Research Report" in the Subject line. The next quarterly report will be completed in late October, 2011.]

The creators behind Wizard101: Josef Hall and Todd Coleman

Being the number one virtual world for kids is no small thing, especially in these days of Disney, Nick and Cartoon Network. But what’s interesting about Wizard101 is that 60% of visitors are playing with another member of their family (at least, according to a recent Trinity University study). What’s are they doing right?

To find out, CTR correspondent Scott Traylor interviewed head wizards at KingsIsle: Josef Hall and Todd Coleman, on a quest for their magic formula. Note that portions of this interview have been condensed, and this interview is part of a larger report that is sold separately.

Where did the Wizard101 idea come from?

The Wizard101 faculty

Josef Hall: We started talking about it seven years ago. I have three kids, they were young then, and I wanted them to have a safe and high-quality online game. Todd and I thought the children’s space really seemed underserved. We wanted to make something that was triple-A, super high-quality. Something we could feel comfortable with our kids and other kids playing.

Todd Coleman: Josef and I were founders of another game company that made hardcore fantasy games with violence and mature themes. We were interested in going in a different direction, a more lighthearted approach to gaming through storytelling.

So the founders of KingsIsle brought you on and charged you with developing a virtual world product for them?

Todd: The story goes back earlier than that. Elie Akilian, our CEO and primary investor had an idea to create a new kind of game company. He talked to a dozen or more game companies to find a partner. At the same time he was searching for a partner, Josef and I were out talking to big publishing houses about a new kind of game we wanted to create. What’s funny about both sides of that story, neither of us were finding traction. Elie found that game companies were mostly interested in making shooters or army games or post-apocalyptic games, hardcore games for hardcode players. When Josef and I were talking to studios, those were the same types of games they wanted to fund. We stumbled into Elie who looked at us, having come out of the hardcore game space, now pitching a wizard game for the family, and it became apparent we should join forces.

From the beginning the idea was to create a family-based wizarding world, even before KingsIsle was formed?

Todd: Yes, in fact if you go back and read the high concept document that Josef and I put together, it’s amazing how much of that original vision is exactly the same as what we created.

How long were you in development?

Josef: About two and a half years before we went into alpha with friends and family.

Todd: And another eight weeks before we went live.

Did the masses come right away?

Todd: It took time. It was about six months of steady growth, but we hadn’t yet hit the tipping point. That was in December 2008 when it started to pick up steam.

Josef: We did some national television advertising, then things really took off. We started growing quickly around that time, and we knew we had something special.

How has Wizard101 changed since you launched?

Josef: The game has stayed true to what it was when we launched, but we’ve added a lot of things, like a housing system and gardening. Everything has kind of the wizard slant. The gardening’s not a normal gardening system. You grow funny plants that have a lot of character and personality, like Couch Potatoes which are little spuds sitting on couches watching TV and talking to each other. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek. We’ve added a pet system where you can own pets and grow them through different in-game mini games. We’ve also added a lot of new worlds, some are pretty big departures from the existing world, like Celestia, which is underwater.

The Wizard101 garden is truly magical.

[CTR Editor's note: Most of these are premium features, available only with a code that costs up to $39. That's the magic of Wizard101's business model.]

Have you learned anything surprising about your audience?

Todd: It’s a wider age spectrum than we expected. We started hearing grandparents were getting into the game, using it as a way to stay connected to their grandchildren. This was really surprising and just really cool to us. It’s something you can’t predict going in. You sit down, make the best game you can, and what you don’t really have control over is player behaviors. Players come into this empty world you crafted. They bring their own hopes and expectations and experiences and relationships. Then the world starts to take on a life of its own. It’s an amazing thing to watch.

How has the business of virtual worlds changed in the last few years?

Todd: Back when we started Wizard, the biggest game at the time was EverQuest, having amassed 400 thousand people. The prevailing thought in the industry at the time was any new virtual worlds to come out would simply carve up the same base of 400 thousand players. Then World of Warcraft launched and started racking up millions upon millions of players. All of a sudden people realized there was a new market. After that, the free-to-play model started in Asia. When it first came to the US, people thought that model would never fly, and of course that was not the case. Today you’re seeing these very casual games pop up on Facebook, and people who never considered themselves gamers, hundreds of millions of people, are now playing on a daily basis. Using those games as a way to connect with their friends.

What was your single biggest moment in the Wizard101 history?

Josef: One that jumps to mind was early on in development I came home and all the computers were taken over by my wife and kids. They were so deep into the game nobody noticed I came in the door. They were laughing and talking to each other, running around in the game. I knew at that moment we had built something that was a lot of fun for my family and would be fun for other families too. It was a wonderful moment.

Todd: My biggest moment was during development. I remember we had our first milestone, an internal test. We had created the art pieces and had engineering working on the code and a design group working on the players and the characters and pulling it all together. We fired it up, and Josef and I were able to jump in for the first time and play. It was that vision we had, taken from a “Wouldn’t it be cool?” conversation to actually seeing it on the screen. It was buggy, the sound wasn’t working, the cinematics were too long, the cameras weren’t working, but looking past all those warts and seeing it, at that moment I knew it was going to work. Josef and I were like, “Okay, we’ve got something here.” I think it was two in the morning. But that moment, you turn that corner and know you’ve gone from an idea to an actual game. Nothing beats that.

(Photo and images © KingsIsle Entertainment)

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