The Cyber Space

Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and...
June 1, 1998

Greg Skinner is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on the latest developments in new media and how these innovations are having an impact on the kids entertainment industry. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics you’d like to see in ‘The Cyber Space,’ please contact Greg Skinner at 416-504-6800 (phone), 416-504-4054 (fax) or (e-mail).

Gaming is cool, if only because there is something out there to meet everyone’s tastes. In saying that, we decided to skip the usual destroy-and-demolish offerings, and cast our gaze on several gaming efforts that have given existing properties new life by extending these brands into alternative outlets.

From a player’s perspective, immersion in the action is one of the most, if not the most, important factors contributing to gamer satisfaction (and hence, marketplace success). And when a game’s characters move outside the realms they normally occupy, they characters take on a whole new dimension, which adds to the pleasure.

From a proprietor’s or content provider’s perspective, however, the game’s underlying focus needs to be on the revenue model, because, at some point, they have to make back all of those bucks spent on development. Economic viability may mean generating visits to a site, product sales, or in many cases, brand support through repeat customers and future sales.

Take the case of the Carmen Sandiego Math Detective CD-ROM by Br¿derbund Software. You are a math detective trying to recover 12 of the world’s wonders by decoding secret passwords. Solving math problems is the key to retrieving the missing monuments. Throughout the game, you receive e-mail and video messages, in addition to flexing your analytical muscles with arithmetic exercises.

The point is that the game lends excellent support to its TV brothers and Web site sister (, even though it’s missing that catchy ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ theme song. On-line, the mandate sticks like glue, with plenty of products for perusal and on-line ordering. Registering in the club gives you a discount code good for each purchase of Carmen Sandiego software. Not only do you have the opportunity to spend, but you learn how to calculate how much these goodies will cost you. The entire effort is well thought out and develops Carmen into an important part of every young detective’s life.

The General Mills baseball CD-ROM, created by BrandGames, is an example of existing properties taking on new life. It’s you and your cereal cohorts-Lucky the Leprechaun, the Trix Bunny and others-versus pro Major League Baseball (MLB) players in a game of ball. Right off the bat, the brand and product tie-ins are evident as the game opens with the General Mills logo, with the MLB insignia and its Web site address in tow.

The game itself is very good-a nice simple concept with tight graphics (particularly of the MLB players). A great idea would be to have some of the characters echo their well-known catch phrases.

The purpose of features such as the meticulously rendered chocolate chip cookie and flying Lucky Charms for General Mills serves to build on the equity already established by the General Mills characters, as well as to continue to foster a relationship with the target demographic (ditto for MLB). Those abundant product shots-the big spoon holding milk and Frosted Cheerios smack in the middle of the outfield-are there to move lots and lots of cereal.

On the Internet, one site of note is the Kellogg’s Nutrition Camp at, which ties in an educational component by helping kids to learn about nutrition.

No doubt, both Kellogg’s and General Mills will be criticized for the unsubtle use of their trademark characters in captivating the minds of young cereal crunchers. The point, however, is that each has taken advantage of high penetration of games and computers to make successful transitions from TV- and print-resident properties into gaming environments.

All three offerings provide a unique perspective on the opportunities for seeding brands, products and content. There are a lot of properties out there searching for, and needing, alternative outlets beyond the usual licensed products. These three give both product suppliers and content providers a new way to help themselves and their sponsors.

Game Types

PC games – a huge range of game types, from chess to multiuser dungeons and everything in between. Most often in CD-ROM format.

Console games – Sega, Nintendo and Sony PlayStation-say no more

Handheld players – Game Boy and Game Gear, the miniature, portable cousins of console players; the same games, with less robust graphics and game play.

On-line games – PC and console games played in on-line environments. Accessibility and cost-they are often pay per use-are big issues, as this is a highly competitive marketplace.

Next month, ‘The Cyber Space’ looks at sites tied into children’s and teen TV shows.

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