Is ‘cuddleware’ the future of preschool IPs and social game platforms?

OPINION: Dubit SVP and researcher David Kleeman suggests that a new approach to caregiver-and-child engagement on Roblox may unlock new opportunities for brands.
March 22, 2023

As brands and content owners flock to Roblox as a proto-metaverse platform, one of the most frequent questions is whether the “YouTube of Games” is a viable place for preschool-aged kids. When you close your eyes and envision a Robloxian, you likely conjure up an image of a six- to 12-year-old kid—and that’s not wrong.

Below a certain age, a child would find it difficult to navigate the Roblox user interface, even if their favorite characters were there. At the same time, Dubit’s Global Trends tracker has found that 15% of US kids ages two to five have talked about Roblox with family members, and 13% have played the game in the same room with someone else. Moreover, while 24% of children in this age group don’t play Minecraft because it’s too complicated or they get stuck, only 10% say the same about Roblox.

And then there’s the rise in co-viewing and co-play—family engagement—that emerged during the pandemic. With time together and few options outside the home, parents and children found common ground in front of screens, whether watching prime-time competition shows and kid-centric (but adult-friendly) shows like Bluey, or sharing casual games or board games. In Dubit’s research, both kids and adults have said they want to maintain this together-time post-COVID.

When you look at all of these insights as a whole, there seems to be an emerging opportunity for preschool IPs to stake out co-engagement space on social gaming platforms. And this opens the door to a new “cuddleware” genre of Roblox experiences—worlds that delight preschoolers with loved and familiar characters, but that let parents “drive” the action. With strong design rooted in the core elements of the IP, the child can “navigate” and teach the parent about the world and its inhabitants, while the parent steers the experience.

In the process, the parent may also gain insight into what attracts the child to a favorite franchise. Preschool content is properly designed for the needs, developmental capabilities and tastes of toddlers, so some iconic shows and games for this age group draw mystified (if not aggravated) reactions from grown-ups. Co-play encourages conversation during exploration, lending insights into what drives the child’s affection and provides gratification.

During the pandemic, we heard from many parents whose perspective on gaming was transformed from annoyance to amazement when they took the time to engage with their older children and see what they’d built on Minecraft or Roblox, or taught themselves on other generative platforms.

Given that parents make the final content decisions for preschoolers and choose what branded toys, clothes, stuffies and more to purchase for them, it makes sense for early-childhood brands to be present on platforms that are fast-growing among a core cohort of first-time parents. Remember, also, that the top-end members of Gen Z are lifelong gamers.

While you weigh how your brand or content might best present itself on Roblox, I’ll be over here imagining a Bluey: Keepy Uppy game.

David Kleeman is SVP of Global Trends for Dubit, a UK-based metaverse studio and research/strategy consultancy.

Image courtesy of Dubit’s Mike Mountain using Midjourney. 

About The Author
Analyst/strategist/writer/speaker David Kleeman travels the world as SVP of Global Trends for kids research consultancy/digital studio @Dubit. Home is an aisle seat near the front. Follow: @davidkleeman.



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