The last five years
The major changes in interactive entertainment for kids have all been linked to the emergence of new technologies. We saw this first with 3-D technology, which virtually recreated the look and feel of interactive entertainment products. New technologies then helped refine products through better and faster delivery, improved graphics and realism, more sophisticated gameplay, and more on-line connectivity. All these changes have helped grow the market for interactive entertainment, and that’s probably the single key difference in children’s new media from five years ago: The increased accessibility of it all.
What haven’t changed are the basic components that must be part of any new media product, no matter what the technology, in order to produce something of quality. This means story, character development and game design. The quality has to be there-kids won’t be fooled by flashy bells and whistles.
If they feel moved by a story and feel an affinity for a character, they’ll keep playing a game. If the product is designed with depth, if it offers many levels of challenge and gameplay with lots of areas to explore, if it lets kids set direction and alter the outcome, they’ll stay with that game to explore as much as they can. Environments need to be creative, yet realistic. Imaginative with well-executed effects. These are all tools that kids need to get the most out of interactive entertainment and learning, and that holds true no matter how sophisticated the technology.
The next five years
We anticipate more connectivity and on-line options in interactive entertainment. This includes broadband and wireless delivery, and the emergence of on-line communities for kids. We anticipate more realism in graphics and more sophisticated game design. We also anticipate that as our industry grows, it will become more mainstream, appealing to an even larger audience. Consumers are much more comfortable with interactive entertainment, and better able to adapt to the sweeping changes in technology. Some products now look almost indistinguishable from animated content.
We also anticipate that as our industry grows, however, consumer identification and comfort with brands will become
even more important, which we see as a good thing. With the creation of great stories and great characters-the two pillars of content-along with technological improvements that make the content available to wider markets while simultaneously improving the quality, we’re
finding ourselves very optimistic about the future.
Matt Bostwick is VP of marketing at Disney’s Burbank, California-based new media division, Disney Interactive.