A look at products designed especially for kids

Sector guide: Children’s software

The tabloid press is full of warnings against letting children playing video games, with the wilder claims ranging from the suggestion that they are as addictive as class A drugs, can cause ADHD, make children violent and could stunt brain development.

However, positive stories emerge almost as frequently, albeit much more quietly. Last month, the scientific journal Cortex published a study which suggested that gaming could in fact help youngsters prepare for a career as a laparoscopic surgeon, by improving their visuomotor skills.

While preparing their children for medical school may not be on the minds of most parents buying games, it appears many are happy enough to allow their kids to play them.

“As a parent – okay, perhaps somewhat biased given my industry connection – I have absolutely no qualms in letting my kids play games that actually offer a good mix of education, leisure and challenge. It’s all about balance, and that comes down to lifestyle, individual people and parenting,” says Alan Wild,Focus Multimedia’s PR and marketing manager.

“Many of the children’s products have educational aspects, and are less about pure gameplay. Parents seem to understand that in today’s world children discover and learn through all types of media, and the PC plays an important part of that learning process,” comments Avanquest Software Publishing sales director Steve Powell.

Despite the tabloids wanting to believe that Broken Britain’s youngsters are being corrupted by violent video games, there is “no conclusive evidence showing a positive correlation between violence in individuals and the games they play,” says Michael Rawlinson director general of The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (formerly ELSPA).

“Whilst some games do feature degrees of violence, we need to remember that interactive entertainment encompasses a broad range of genres, much like film. Games can be adventure, sports, interactive or educational,” Rawlinson adds. But if adults are concerned about the content of the games their children play, UKIE has created a classification system to help them decide on the most suitable titles. The PEGI system includes age rating symbols and written guidance, and will soon be incorporated into legislation. From April 1st next year, selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person will become illegal.

“The PEGI classification system empowers parents and guardians to make informed decisions about the types of material their children are exposed to,” explains Rawlinson.

Currently, many of the most popular kids’ titles are based on characters from TV programmes and films. From classic characters like Scooby Doo to more modern icons such as SpongeBob Squarepants and Peppa Pig, licensing represents a major market opportunity.

Despite the popularity of games based on cartoons, Wild claims the gap between children’s and grown-ups’ titles is growing smaller. “It’s a misconception to believe that kids’ games are as young as they once were.

The industry has grown up as a whole and games across all age brackets and genres have matured considerably. Children are typically introduced to computers from an early age and are now more knowledgeable than ever about interactivity and gaming,” he says. “With the exception of 15 and 18 certificated software, the jump to more ‘grown up’ games is much smaller and far less defined than it once was.”

The Christmas season is obviously a peak period for family-friendly software. According to Wild, the collapse of Woolworths in 2008 has left a gap in children’s games that no other chain has managed to fill, creating a major opportunity for all retailers. “The best approach is quite simple, in my opinion. A regular feature of good, clear, well stocked and cleanly merchandised displays is imperative,” he comments.

“Children’s products are more often than not an impulse or distress purchase. Displaying a range of leading children’s brands as part of their budget PC offering is normally the best way for retailers to drive sales, as they will have parents and children looking through a large selection – the best sales come from spinner displays or dedicated bays,” adds Powell. “Success in this sector comes from retailers that understand the budget category.”


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas

They say: With seven interactive games, Dora Saves the Crystal Kingdom educates, inspires, and prepares your child for preschool

Teaches colours, shapes, counting, matching, patterns, letters, words, music, memory, basic Spanish and computer skills


Distributor: Centresoft

They say: Bring your bricks back to your own Lego Universe world, where you can build anything you can imagine – then bring your models to life

Features: Massively multiplayer online gaming, customizable characters, pre-made or custom buildings, includes one month’s free subscription


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Focus Multimedia

They say: Mr Krab has generously given SpongeBob tickets to the greatest amusement park ever built under the ocean – Neptune’s Paradise. But will he ever get there?

Features: Multiple areas within the game, gathering clues from SpongeBob’s friends and family, mapping SpongeBob’s quest


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution,
Ideal Software, Centresoft

They say: This exciting activity pack follows Fifi and her amazing group of little Flowertot friends as they go about their everyday lives in Flowertot garden

Features: Games and puzzles including pairs, snap, wordsearch, jigsaw, spot the difference and colouring book; lets users watch a full episode of the programme


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Focus Multimedia

They say: Join Carl Fredrickson and Wilderness Explorer Russell for a wild adventure

Features: Dangerous creatures, treacherous jungles, aerial dog fights


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution,
Ideal Software, Centresoft

They say:
Join Pat and friends in a Special Delivery Service adventure

Features: Engaging games, puzzles and activities; high quality graphics; songs; reward system to challenge and motivate children; multiple levels of play; creativity workshop


Distributor: Centresoft

They say:
Play the hugely horrible role of Henry as you head off on his mischievous missions, wreaking havoc around you

Features: 40 levels and eight bonus levels to unlock, multiple difficulty settings, includes favourite characters such as Moody Margaret, Perfect Peter, Mum, Dad and Miss Battle-Axe


Distributor: Focus Multimedia

They say: Unmask the mystery in an international game of hide and chic

Features: French landmarks, decoding secrets, intricate puzzles, ‘second chance’ option to erase mistakes, junior or senior detective levels


Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Focus Multimedia

They say: Make space for infinite action, astronomical fun and a mission that’s out of this world

Features: Action-packed worlds, blasting enemies and obstacles


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Focus Multimedia

They say: Like real ones, Catz need someone to care for them and to treat them well with ‘Toyz’ and ‘Treatz’ for daily care or with clothing and accessories to dress them

Features: Five mini games, postcards, playscene editor, web fun pack including clip art and animations


SRP: £24.99
Distributor: Centresoft

They say: Build the adventure from Privet Drive to the Triwizard Tournament and experience the magic of the first four Harry Potter stories… Lego style

Features: Immersive 3D environment, choice of favourite characters to play, potion mixing, broomstick flying, house points for completed tasks


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Interactive Ideas, Gem Distribution,
Ideal Software, Centresoft

They say: Cruise into the pit lane and join Roary the Racing Car, Big Chris and friends as you zoom through eight fun games and puzzles at the Silver Hatch racetrack

Features: Eight games and puzzles including noughts and crosses, jigsaw, wordsearch, Doughnut Solitaire, Apple Catchers, Skids and Grids, Sliding Tiles, Jigsaw and Meet the Cast


SRP: £4.99
Distributor: Focus Multimedia

They say:
This is your chance to really take control, get creative and have fun in a different Legoland everyday

Legoland design using rides and attractions from real parks, freeplay or game mode, rewards system


0121 625 3399
Focus Multimedia
01889 570156
Gem Distribution
01279 822822
Ideal Software
01767 689720
Interactive Ideas
020 8805 1000

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