With the rapidly changing landscape of interactive media came the inaugural INplay event held in Toronto, Canada this past Tuesday and Wednesday. The goal was to connect international kid-centric creative industries with those operating in the digital and interactive media space.
With sessions revolving around online privacy, social media, search engines, business innovation and trends in game design, a consensus emerged that iterative innovation and a commitment to good content spur higher results among an increasingly social generation. Mobile, of course, was also touted as the wave of the future in kids interactive entertainment.
At the ‘How Do Children Find Good Sites’ session, Gail Livermore, from toyco Spin Master, says the company relies on its research and consumer insight department to take the temperature of the interactive space on a daily basis through interviewing and talking with kids about their wants and needs. Livermore’s co-panellist, Jed Schneiderman of Microsoft Canada, preached about the importance of instant messaging as a traffic referrer, revealing that 80% of teens use IM, accounting for the same total online minutes as email.
‘The Rules of the Game Have Changed,’ meanwhile, sparked an interesting debate surrounding the 70-30 rule – the idea that companies should put 30% of their resources into game development and through testing and real-time measurement let consumers decide where to invest the remaining 70%. The model relies on the growing shift from a product-based gaming industry to an agile service-driven one, as with the erosion of production costs comes more room for risk and smaller budgets.
Yet despite an evolving digital landscape, innovation consultant Lib Gibson is seeing that ‘everything old is new again,’ with things like the subscription model making a comeback. Gibson stands by the concept that innovation begins with an understanding of the user. It’s also driven by need. A lesson learned by Corus Entertainment’s director of kids interactive, Caitlin O’Donovan, who said that while translating the Babar website into several languages, her team quickly discovered it required a translation engine to increase efficiency and had to create one in-house.
Internet privacy and safety were also big themes thrown around at the conference, as kids are entering the digital space at increasingly younger ages. Virtual sites like Habbo Hotel, for instance, are already incorporating small-scale police patrol. Roughly 26% of kids have been bullied online at one point, and with new networks emerging like Togetherville, which is geared towards the under-10 set and their parents, the hope is to try and creatively bridge the privacy gap that continues to widen in the space.