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Simon & Schuster wants more candy

The M&Ms crew is heading into the second phase of its interactive life-but this time around, the program is focused squarely on entertainment product. Vid game licensee Simon & Schuster Interactive is gearing up to launch a PlayStation game called M&Ms:...
July 1, 2001

The M&Ms crew is heading into the second phase of its interactive life-but this time around, the program is focused squarely on entertainment product. Vid game licensee Simon & Schuster Interactive is gearing up to launch a PlayStation game called M&Ms: Shell-Shocked in August, followed by M&Ms: Fun Pack for Game Boy Advance in October.

The new titles build on a franchise started last October, when S&S Interactive came out with CD-ROM math game M&Ms: The Lost Formulas. The disk seemed destined for success given M&Ms’ extensive educational pedigree. Teachers have been using the 60-year-old candy brand to teach kids math for more than eight years, and Simon & Schuster’s The M&M Counting Book has sold more than 750,000 units since it hit shelves in 1994. However, M&Ms’ edu-background didn’t register with buyers. ‘We found a little resistance to the education title,’ says Jeff Siegel, VP and creative director of S&S Interactive. ‘Buyers were largely unaware of M&Ms’ long history in math education,’ and as a result, The Lost Formulas has sold a mere 13,000 units for sales of US$213,000 to date, according to The NPD Group.

In December 2000, Simon & Schuster Interactive released an action-adventure Game Boy Color offering called M&Ms: Minis Madness, which registered much higher on the retail radar. NPD puts the game’s total sales at US$712,000, with 24,000 units sold through so far.

Taking the lesson learned from these results to heart, S&S Interactive designed Shell-Shocked and Fun Pack as action-oriented games skewing to the six and up crowd. In Shell-Shocked, the Minis steal the secret candy formulas and hide them throughout the factory while Red and Yellow are on vacation. Players must recover all the recipes while avoiding dangerous hazards. Fun Pack is an interactive board game in which kids guide M&M characters through obstacles and collect Minis for points.

Building further on its relationship with M&M/Mars, Simon & Schuster Interactive is also developing a PC and PlayStation 2 game based on the candy company’s Skittles brand. Market research shows that 80% of teens in the U.S. eat Skittles at least once a month (40% once a week), so S&S decided to go after an older 15-plus demo with a mythical action-adventure game fashioned after the mysterious environments featured in Skittles’ ‘Taste the Rainbow’ TV ads.

Due out for the PC in October and for PS2 by the end of 2001, Darkened Skye is a magic-driven title in which players must collect different-colored Skittle power-ups to cast a host of spells and incantations. The branding for this game is much more subtle and sophisticated, says Siegel, although the candies will be featured on packaging.

Because the teen Skittle-eating demo is split pretty evenly between boys and girls, S&S designed a Buffy-esque female protagonist that should encourage girl gamers to pick up the title.

Darkened Skye will be tagged in a fall-launching Skittles TV and print campaign, and Simon & Schuster Interactive and M&M/Mars are currently hammering out several other cross-promotions for both Darkened Skye and the two new M&Ms games. Successful promos for The Lost Formulas might be revisited, including an in-theater promotion at 1,000 locations whereby movie-goers who purchased two bags of M&Ms got US$10 off the price of the game.

So far, S&S Interactive has no concrete plans to tap into other M&M/Mars candy brands, although Siegel sees a lot of potential in Starburst.

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