by Nat Sims and Björn Jeffery
Several trends are combining to rapidly push educational publishers in new directions: The future of educational media is digital. The future of digital is mobile, and the future of mobile is gaming. Touch screens will be not only the dominant gaming platforms, they will be the dominant educational platform too. There’s money to be made—and children to be educated.
All this we know. But what does this mean for traditional educational publishers? What does this mean for game designers, and for makers of children’s digital content?
I have worked in educational software design for twenty years, and I have never seen the industry better funded or more befuddled. At Night & Day Studios we have pursued development of our own mobile content, but increasingly, we are licensing brands and making partnerships with large, traditional publishers to bring their content to mobile devices.
No one knows what the business deals should look like. No one knows what a branded educational game should be. In the great majority of cases, neither educators or really traditional publishers are really in control of the games that are being made or the revenues that are being generated.
The great majority of mobile software publishers are small companies without the reach, channels, or back catalog of the big publishers. But the developers are quick and cheap and experts in their brand-new fields. In short, the two companies need each other.
What do the children need? Are there lessons we can take away from the last twenty years of educational software publishing-from CD-ROMs to A/R games-that can successfully guide the way we design, develop, and deliver fun and educational experiences to our children? Are there particular attributes of touchscreen mobile devices that can let us do something new?
It is more than just the technology that has changed: Can a heavily branded game from a major publisher still deliver innovative and effective educational experiences with lasting impact? Can we actually improve the lives and knowledge of our young people, while making money at the same time? How will we know if we have succeeded?
We will discuss our experiences in creating new business models around licensing and content partnerships; in designing our products on principles of cognitive development; in bringing mobile content to the global market; and in developing the analytics to measure actual improvement in the minds of users.
13th–15th February 2012