If there’s one message that the interactive software industry wanted to communicate at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), held in late May, it’s that the business has grown into a mass market with sales close to rivaling box-office figures. In 1997, sales of computer, video and Internet games and edutainment software in the U.S. reached US$5.1 billion, a 38 percent increase over 1996.
The broadening of the consumer base for software into a mass market is reflected in a wider range of titles for all ages, including children. According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, 70 percent of titles have been rated as E (suitable for age six and older), and another eight percent as EC (age three and older).
For retailers of children’s software, this points to a more secure biz in the near future, particularly since many producers are tapping into well-known properties from other media.
Testing the waters at the show for the first time was LEGO Media International. The company is at work on three titles for a fourth-quarter 1998 launch-LEGO Creator, LEGO Loco and LEGO Chess-with an estimated street price of US$29.99 to US$39.99. Another European toy brand, Playmobil, is moving into software in a deal with Ubi Soft Entertainment. The result is the first Ubi Soft children’s products based on a licensed property-Hype: The Time Quest, Laura’s Happy Home and Alex Builds His Farm-which are slated to launch in the first quarter of 1999.
Deserving credit for innovation, Hasbro Interactive’s Tonka Workshop and Star Wars Millenium Falcon CD-ROM play sets are impressive in merging traditional toys with the content possibilities of software. The company is also exploring applications for girls. Both play sets are hitting stores by November tagged around US$40 each.