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Rayman goes to school

Rayman has got it all backwards. Montreal-based Ubi Soft's floppy-eared character with invisible extremities is breaking out of the PC game world into an interactive learning environment. Rayman Learning Center streets as educational CD-ROMs in September, targeting specific age groups with...
August 1, 1999

Rayman has got it all backwards. Montreal-based Ubi Soft’s floppy-eared character with invisible extremities is breaking out of the PC game world into an interactive learning environment. Rayman Learning Center streets as educational CD-ROMs in September, targeting specific age groups with three different games.

The first game is geared to children ages six to seven, the second is for the seven to eight crowd, and the third is targeted at eight- to nine-year-olds. Each are sold separately for an estimated street price of US$9.99. System requirements include a 486 PC or higher.

The products focus on developing skills like spelling, reading, vocabulary, word and number recognition, counting, addition and subtraction. Rayman Learning Center is designed to feel like a game. Players learn as they go through six levels to get to the fun payoff-rescuing the Magic Book of Knowledge from the evil Dr. Dark. ‘We’ve made it rewarding in order to motivate kids to learn,’ says Ubi Soft product manager Erica Mason.

The Rayman game series has sold four million copies since its debut in 1995. Mason says the initial success of the property spurred designers on to introduce an educational line that retains the appeal of the original game, including gaming elements like scrolling and jumping. For example, players must choose the correct spelling of words like ‘really’ and must highlight them by maneuvering Rayman up to a higher level to jump onto the correct answer. The three products include 1,800 math and grammar questions. ‘It does you no good if you’ve got an educational game that parents love and kids absolutely hate,’ Mason explains. With this in mind, Ubi Soft conducted focus groups with kids and took the product into schools to test it with teachers in an attempt to create a happy medium between gaming and learning.

Ubi Soft will use the edutitles to cross-promote the upcoming Rayman 2: The Great Escape (which streets in October for US$29.99) by including a US$10 rebate for the game in every Rayman Learning Center product. The company is also banking on Rayman’s popularity to make the move into TV. An animated Rayman series is in development, and Ubi Soft is currently shopping the 12-minute pilot to prospective broadcasters.

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