In our first special report on retail, KidScreen assigned four reporters in four different U.S. centers-New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tucson-to examine and rate the merchandising of children’s interactive software and videos. They looked at everything from customer service to in-store displays to the way companies were branding their products at the retail level. We included major chains and small independent stores, computer specialty shops and bookstores.
Egghead Software, Tucson, Arizona
Walking into the entertainment section of a chain software store like Egghead Software can be something of an eye opener. This Tucson, Arizona, location, one of 165 around the country, is glitzy and appealing and at first glance, it’s hard to know where to start.
Salespeople are easy to find and after asking one of them to suggest the titles of a couple of popular games for teenagers, there is a choice to be made between Duke Nukem, a bloody, gory one, and Spycraft, the more realistic bloody, gory one. Apparently, these are the titles that are going to put a smile on a teenager’s face.
Most of the packages in the store have ratings and content descriptions on them. There is a poster on the wall stating that Egghead supports the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) and RSAC (Recreational Software Advisory Council) rating systems. But the salespeople seem hard-pressed to give a clear answer as to who is doing the rating, why there are two different systems, or exactly what some of the terms used in the ratings mean. Just what constitutes a mild expletive? What is the difference between a three and a four on the RSAC blood and gore and gratuitous violence thermometer?
Despite a certain amount of ambiguity, the ratings on the packages are helpful in steering around the blood and gore, past the sex and violence and towards something that a parent could feel more comfortable buying for a teenager, though, a game called Wizardry Gold, labeled as appropriate for ages six to adult, has a cover that depicts a female that looks like a cross between Madonna and Conan the Barbarian-for a six-year-old?
Egghead’s children’s section is divided into categories (top sellers, interactive books, arts and creativity, math, science, language arts, social studies, games, and finally the largest, early learning), and all children’s titles are listed on a card created by the store with a blurb about the software, the hardware requirements to run it and the price. Most of the software in the children’s section is aimed at kids 12 and under and is labeled for age appropriateness. This department of the store gets an A+ for layout and content.
Added incentives to shop here include an area set up for kids to screen videos to occupy them while their parents are shopping, a five-percent discount card, available for the asking, a toll-free number (1-800-EGGHEAD), and a Web site (http://www.egghead.com) with information on products, pricing and ordering. From Egghead’s home page, there is a link to Ziff Davis, a publisher of technology publications to help with purchasing decisions.
Egghead rates a nine out of 10 for the overall shopping experience. It would be hard to make a trip to Egghead without buying something, or at least coming away with a wish list.