The Death of Children’s Software

I subscribe to a publication called “Children’s Technology Review”. In the latest issue, there’s a chart at the back showing the number of children’s media titles (i.e. edutainment) released on various platforms from 1993 to 2005.

In 1993, there were 108 Windows children’s titles released.

By 1996, the introduction of a multimedia friendly OS (Windows 95) and widespread technology adoption of CD-ROMS, sound cards, etc had led to a soaring children’s software market – 757 titles released. (i.e. almost a seven-fold increase in 3 years).

The market was more or less flat through about 1999, then began a sharp decline, down to 107 titles in 2005. i.e. The market is smaller now than it was 12 years ago, when nobody had CD-ROM drives or sound cards in their computers. In fact, the market decline has been accelerating – the number of titles released fell 53% from 2004 to 2005 alone.

Note that this is only the number of titles released, not dollar sales, but I’ve seen dollar figures in the past, and they track this data in a similar fashion.

The Macintosh market loosely shadowed the Windows market, with about 70% as many titles in the mid 90s, down to about 40% as many titles in the last couple years. So the Mac saw the same boom and bust, with the bust coming a bit harder as it coincided with a relative decline of the Mac vs. Windows.

Of note: To a limited extent, the Windows and Mac childrens’ software market has shifted to handheld devices like Leapster, V.Smile, Game Boy, and the new Fly pen. But even here, while there have been many new devices introduced, including several this year, the overall market is noticeably smaller than it was 3 or 4 years ago.

It’s a shame, because my kids are now getting old enough (6 and 4), that I’d like to introduce them to some great children’s software. But I can’t find it – there’s little on the shelf, and what’s there is poor quality licensed Dora the Explorer and Spongebob stuff. The great original franchises of the 90s (Pajama Sam, Freddi Fish, Reader Rabbit, etc) are pretty much gone. At best, you’ll find a 5-year old re-issue of one of these games, that barely runs on a modern Win XP machine.

5 Responses to “The Death of Children’s Software”

  1. Ant Says:

    It’s a shame, but has probably happened because of the increased focus on spending millions on creating new graphics engines for the next iteration of franchise.

    Is a new childrens/educational title going to generate sufficient payback for that investment? My bet is that the software houses look at it and say: “Not a chance.”
    And yet, young kids don’t care about the number of polygons, shading, or whatever the buzzword is this month. They just like bright colours, bouncing animals and catchy tunes.

    Maybe you could throw something together yourself Phil.

  2. LCL Says:

    Although some of the Dr. Seuss games are geared for the younger set, all of their interactive storybooks are awesome for my 3-ish year old…with a level of depth and variety to keep them fresh for several plays (as well as several listenings by attentive parents).

    They also had a pre-scool and kindergarded series that is very well done.

    and…they are running in a WinXP world on a modern machine with no problem, and hella cheap cause they’re old.

    Also try:
    http://intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/
    &
    http://jayisgames.com/
    for lots of quick casual games

    Good luck!

  3. Steven Woo Says:

    I was visiting some friends and was recruited to play some Dora games with the kids and was appalled by the quality of the games.

  4. Sasha Says:

    For your kids

    We make best kids music games in known universe: two Parents’ Choice Gold, two The Parenting Magazine Software of the Year awards and about 30 other awards.

    Target age group 4 to 104

    Would you like me to email you links to downloads?

  5. Sasha Says:

    For your kids

    Website: http://www.musicgames.net
    My email sasha@musicgames.net

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