Interesting Strategy, Wisenhimer
WiseHealth today announced the launch of Wisenhimer, a virtual world aimed at teaching kids aged 5-12 about eating and living well to fight childhood obesity and Type II diabetes. The site features an array of casual games, activities and lessons as well as the virtual world, all based around healthy living and life lessons. The site itself is free and users can play all the games and create their own avatars, but WiseWorld proper is available to premium subscribers only.
With subscriptions beginning at $5/month, users get access to the moderated world, customizable treehouses, and extra games. Without even a trial period, that’s a different approach from the current trend of virtual worlds, especially for kids, of making it as easy possible to try out a virtual world or even play forever at a limited level.
Wow. Aggressive. Take no prisoners. Bold.
A virtual world on ‘healthy play’ that kids can’t even get into without subscription?
That puts a lot of pressure on two things:
1. The games on the free site (better wet that appetite)
2. The parents & their ability to push kids towards parent-education-friendly sites.
Loads of parents out there are looking for alternative play, right? The kind of play where they know the kid is safe, educated, non-marketed-to…
That’s apparent, and part of the reason Club Penguin (even WITH it’s Disney guardian) does so well. Parents are happy with what they expect to get. Sure, CP is young looking (I used to be uber-baffled at the # of boys playing in such a cutesy-pie world, and have since retracted that thought due to their event-planning and customizations, among other things), but Club Penguin has an advantage to say – everyone else: Time. They’ve been around for AGES. Like Neopets, which is – well – a juggernaut but not necessarily the best example of a virtual experience. Neopets has HUGE numbers because they’ve been around for roughly 10 years (and don’t forget the continued support of Nick.com and Nickelodeon, it’s 1/2 siblings under the Viacom umbrella).
Most of the parents I talk to send their kid to a virtual world based on this knowledge:
Second – Is it parent/safety friendly? Do I feel comfortable leaving my kid playing in this virtual playground?
Third – What content is being shared with them? Marketing? Education? Hmm….
This knowledge (for as great a thought-progression as it is) tends to also act like barriers to entry. Some are lucky to even have the second thought occur to them (and that usually happens when the parent happens to be passing by or sitting with the child at the time… like during purchase of subscriptions, unless that purchase happens by pay-as-you-go cards from Target). I mean, look at Youtube! Parents often brag about the things their child has discovered on youtube… and that’s like sending your kid alone through the streets of Time Square in New York at 10 pm. Kids often have the say about what they interact with – and when it comes to tech, the majority of parents (forgive me all you mommolas & poppolas) just hang on tight for the ride.
So… for a world to gain some sort of traction, it needs to have strong footing within the tween age demo. That THANG that makes kids spread the love like chicken pox (re: editorial note, I originally spelled this ‘pockets’ to which i laughed for like an hour… awesome).
I wish a virtual world like this ALL THE BEST. They’ve got great intentions and could do a massive amount of good for kids. I just hope they have some plan in the works. Some support from say… schools, etc, who wish to get kids involved with anti-obesity game play, and therefore make the kids feel LUCKY for playing an educationish game pre-judgment.
Back in the day of MathBlaster – I HATED it when Mom made me play it at the old IBM. Ugh. Even Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego and Oregon Trail held little interest for me at home (and yet – i would have played the uber-slow, not as fun Wheel of Fortune game for ages – it was a tv show! Not educational 😉 ). But at school? DUDE. I would have been on CLOUD NINE to play anything like that – in fact, we’d fight over the computer in class to play various educational games. When I went to Montessori in 3rd grade (yep, i was one of THOSE kids), we would cluster around the old Apple and watch, as if it were some championship game, and not little green flashing dots shooting at other green flashing dots with multiplication numbers flashing across the screen.
Now, all of this caution-based-education-VW rambling might just be moot, as the virtual world itself hasn’t even been given the chance to succeed (and I’m not saying it won’t). I’m just worried that by cutting out the free kids 1st, you’re severely removing your target demo – who might just go play on miniclip instead. Then again, there may be some amazing marketing plan coming up for such a world…
Like Target tie-ins & gift cards & television program support… all building up to some tent-pole event of awesomeness, where kids are so thirsty for the “goodness” and “heroism” of the product that they’ll rush to join, despite the fact they don’t have any real taste of the virtual world.
I’m totally psyched to see how this goes… I’d really like to see such a thing succeed – especially with such a bold change in strategy. Might make a wee twist in the way virtual worlds are presented to the market, yeah?
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