A new kid on the video game block is using licensed properties, starting with Sesame Street characters, to break into an untapped market audience-children age two to six. NewKidCo, a fledgling New York-based company, has secured a Children’s Television Network license to use Elmo and other Sesame Street characters in two games it’s designing for Sony’s PlayStation console.
Teaming up with Alpha Software, NewKidCo expects to ship Elmo’s Magical Number Tour and Elmo’s Magical Letter Tour in the first week of October. The estimated street price for the titles is US$39.95 each.
According to Hank Kaplan, NewKidCo’s founder, the company does not plan to create original characters for its future games. ‘We would have to spend a huge amount of money to promote a new character to the level of recognition that Elmo already has. It doesn’t make much sense.’
Kaplan believes that the Elmo titles will fill a crucial gap in the video game industry. ‘All kids want to play video games,’ he says. ‘The problem is that the games out there for older kids are inappropriate for small children in terms of subject matter and skill level. They can’t even plod through one level without getting totally frustrated.’
CTW helped to design the curriculum and instructional content of the Elmo games, but the titles will also have a 3-D look that smacks of Sony technology. Players navigate Elmo through three fantastical worlds, each hosted by a different Sesame Street character. The player’s quest in each world is to single out certain numbers, letters and words from among a bunch, thus enhancing the child’s number and letter recognition skills.
NewKidCo is developing two Nintendo GameBoy versions of the Elmo titles that it expects to ship by year’s end. The company is also releasing another PlayStation game, called Buster and the Beanstalk, that will feature Warner Bros. characters Buster, Plucky and Elmira. The title, which will come out in late October, targets kids age five to nine.