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Disney, Stuffed Animals, Draw Kids to Online Games

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the ahh-the-disturbing-future dept.

Role Playing (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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Furry alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18491693)

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. 'Furries', 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. Furries, 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 furries is always tricky; no one wants to be seen shilling to furfags. And whether the furries 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 furries will want in the future--like next week. The most carefully crafted strategies can be blown up by an overnight shift in whatever furfags deem cool. "

Re:Furry alert (2, Interesting)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18492777)

My eldest daughter is a tween, and she is all over this. For her and her friends it's a fun social event, much like online console games are for us adults. She is constantly on Club Penguin, and Disney.com, and Webkins, etc. and is frequently making "dates" with her friends to "meet" there. For them it is much-appreciated social time that they wouldn't otherwise get because we just aren't going to make play dates for them every single day. As parents we appreciate the diversion that this gives them, and we definitely are more brand-loyal due to furries. Just one good example is Disney.com. All the kids, from the three-year-old on up are on it all the time. It's safe. It's fun, just like Disney Channel, which winds up being one of only a handful of channels that we let them watch. No commercials: Big bonus. No commercials causing them to ask awkward questions when we aren't ready to talk about some topic: Big bonus. When the kids get together, furries are what they talk about (although today is the first time I've heard that term applied), and adults take notice that they enjoy the fare that we serve, so we naturally support their interest in the products connected to these sites. Nickelodeon is generally less popular in our circle, as we don't appreciate Spongebob and many of the other characters as being too "below" the kids' level, and encourage the least common denominator (there are some Disney shows that do as well, but we don't let them have all-they-can eat of those, either). The only thing than safe online places to play is the safety afforded by a kid-proof browser. We have used Bumper Car for OSX for years, and swear by it. It's easy enough for the three-year-old, but by a whitelist and hueristic system, lets me control what the older kids can get onto. Since each user has their own account, I can easily customize what each kid is allowed to access. If I don't trust the hueristics (uh, I'm a geek and they're still young, so I don't), then they are even more locked down than they would be with the use of a filtering firewall, because as they get older they won't be able to overcome the router, even if they know how.

Re:Furry alert (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18509073)

"...because as they get older they won't be able to overcome the router, even if they know how."

Clicng to that gream me friend, cling to it with every bit of strength you have.
Cause it is giong to get blown away when you catch one that figured away around it. Like putting in their own router when you are out. Or wifi over a neighbors lines.

It's like trying to invent racoon proof trash can.

Re:Furry alert (1)

MikeyTheK (873329) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511397)

Sup, geekoid? I must not have been clear. The reason they can't overcome the router is because the filtering isn't being done by the router, i.e. they can do whatever they want to the router, but it won't affect anything. The filtering is being done inside of Bumper Car (the only browser they can access), which is running in a restricted Mac OS X account for each kid. So, it's really, really unlikely that they'll be able to circumvent it. Even if they were to use the router to redirect (clever bastards), the traffic is still filtered on the inbound side as well. Taking the remaining stuff out of order (you'll see why in a moment), the wife and I have both raised 'coons. They're absolutely adorable as kittens, but crazy as adults, 'specially in season. That being said, the easiest way to coon-proof the trash is to do the same thing you do with squirrels - feed them away from where the goodies are. In this case, our coons (as adults) had a feeding area, and a food-washing area, and play area, etc. They didn't go to the trash because they didn't have to. It works great, if you don't mind coons. Oh, there's another coon-proof trashcan as well - it's called the garage, and yessiree we have one of them newfangled thingies here. Anyway, now that we've determined that I might as well be a damn hillbilly, 'taint likely that the youngins'll be snarfing dat thar wifi from the neighbors...wait...we have neighbors? Can't see 'em from here, nosir. That would be one helluva wifi sniper rifle, yesindeedy. Late, dude.

Furries you say? (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#18511103)

Oh yeah, Furries, that's safe for the kids and leads to completely normal balanced lifestyle.

Got Yiff? [encycloped...matica.com]

Re:Furry alert (1)

GammaKitsune (826576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18578935)

Furries? I assume we're talking about the much maligned group infamous for fursuiting and making animal noises at inopportune moments? They're a "demographic" now?

I'd be amused to see someone trying to market to that community, given how massively homebrew they are with their content... It's a pretty self-sufficient fandom, from what I've observed. Many do seem to have a softspot for traditionally nerdy stuff, though, such as videogames, SF/F, electronics and the like. In fact, it's probable that there are more than a few furries wandering around /. right now.

I guess my point is that they're not so simple a demographic to market to, really. They already buy usual nerdy stuff, and will probably keep up that trend. The crazy, scary members of that community have already found outlets, and are probably in the minority anyway.

My favorite quote (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18491715)

"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 allowed outside anymore.

Re:My favorite quote (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 7 years ago | (#18492643)

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:My favorite quote (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18492695)

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 answering e-mails and browsing the web
- they get limited exposure to the commercials on TV
- the computer is set up in the kitchen, so the parents can monitor the content

It sounds very draconian and oppressive, but it works very well. Kids at that age need a lot of guidance and it's the parent's role to give it.

Re:My favorite quote (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#18492971)

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 Boomerang channel). "Her" laptop isn't connected to the net, though to be honest that's mostly because I can't get Ubuntu to play nice with the wireless card.

At that age there are so many more things to do, being on the tv/computer/game system really should fall to the bottom of the list. My last house had a 120" FP system for a TV, but it was in a licing romm that was mostly glass, so you really couldn't watch TV until middle-twilight. I reasoned that if it were light enough outside to mess with the screen, then you probably shouldn't be inside watching. Rainy days and afternoon college football were the exception.

Yeah (1)

GammaKitsune (826576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18491739)

Because kids today really do need to be marketed at more. It's not like they're already being bombarded by corporate culture enough.

Re:Yeah (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18499079)

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 have an enormous impact upon the decisions your child thinks they make.

As a adult is is difficult to fight against the continual subconscious marketing bombardment, as a child it is virtually impossible. A controlled childrens Internet is required to ensure all products specifically targeted at children are vetted by independent and qualified authorities, and not qualified in terms of maximum profits for corporations and how to extract as much of your children's pocket money as possible but in terms of the mental health and social and cognitive development of children.

Webkinz sucks (2, Informative)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:Webkinz sucks (2, Funny)

the_wishbone (1018542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18491841)

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...

Killer App. Beanie Babies + MMOPG (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#18491799)

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.

I don't get it, is this a "troll" article? (1)

TheSpoogeAwards (589343) | more than 7 years ago | (#18491803)

Is Zonk from the ahh-the-disturbing-future department one of these "trolls" I've been hearing about, and does Disney use these "trolls" to entice children into online games?

So that's Microsoft's next big game after Halo 3.. (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 7 years ago | (#18492491)

... Viva Pinata online.

Finicky market (5, Interesting)

Vulva R. Thompson, P (1060828) | more than 7 years ago | (#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).

along with people who talk at the theatre (1)

tabby (592506) | more than 7 years ago | (#18493499)

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 (2, Informative)

neminem (561346) | more than 7 years ago | (#18497105)

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.
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