According to a new study by the NPD Group, a technology research firm, 55.7 million kids in the U.S. age 2 to 17 play videogames - or roughly 82% of children. I suppose that's not entirely surprising on the surface. But, hang on - 2-year-olds?
What are they playing?
Many are watching older brothers/sisters play Webkinz, the virtual world that kids enter after buying accompanying "plush" toys. Webkinz is the gateway for virtual worlds to come, and its' reach is astonishing. I interviewed the elusive CEO, Howard Ganz, and here's what he had to say - food for though on kids and digital living:
"Generally, we anticipate upcoming challenges by looking forward: we try to imagine what our world will look like 3-5 years out," Ganz said,
"For example, our first successful transition saw us grow from supplying the amusement industry to participating in the larger toy industry. Next, when we saw that many of our bigger customers were going directly to the Orient to purchase, we explored new avenues of growth. This led to our expansion into the giftware industry, where we could develop a broad assortment of product lines which are sold to a wide base of customers. As one category wanes, another becomes ‘hot’, and we can react more quickly to both scenario."
"...We don’t think of our Webkinz pets as a replacement to traditional plush—we still design and create many lines of plush toys—but instead as a new category. It’s not a field for everyone. It requires a big commitment, and a big investment, to develop a website from the ground up...We don’t view Webkinz World, or the experience of children’s virtual play worlds, as a ‘trend’. We think it is a new category of play, along with building blocks, dress-up, coloring books and make believe."
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.