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Mind Candy signals that the kids market for games is too tough, even for them

By on November 17, 2015
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Mind Candy has just stated that they are pulling out of the kids space, because it’s too tough.

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, founder and ex-CEO* Michael Acton Smith said “The competition is immense. Kids just don’t want to play those games specifically designed just for them… we’re not going to build products which are just aimed at a kids audience any more. It’s just too challenging.”

Mind Candy has been seen by many in the wider entertainment industry as a British success story that had captured a significant slice of the elusive market for digital success with children’s products. Moshi Monsters was a huge hit, making money from digital subscriptions to its web service as well as a wide range of licensing deals. (Even if journalists tended to overstate Mind Candy’s revenues by a factor of 7!)

I think that the licensing success masked a deeper malaise. Licensing partners tend to lag the market, so even as Moshi’s revenues were soaring, there was a real danger that the heart of the brand – the Moshi game itself – was under threat. I predicted that in 2013, and it looks as if it is going to come true.

Acton Smith has said this very clearly. Kids on smartphones don’t need kid’s games. They can play Candy Crush Saga, or Hay Day, or even Clash of Clans. My 7 year old is really rather good at Hearthstone (yes, that is fatherly pride and yes, it’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that we’ve played it a lot together). How can a kids’ game thrive when its competition is some of the most successful game franchises on the planet.

There are some exceptions. Toca Boca is doing well in the pre-school market. But Acton Smith is planning a new property that is aimed at families. Think Pixar or Nintendo. Family friendly entertainment that offer something for kids, something for adults and something for both. It’s a smart move, albeit a tricky one.

I do hope that Mind Candy can pull it off. It would be great to see a successful pivot. After all, King had to pivot twice (from skill gaming to Facebook, from Facebook games to tablet) before it found its success, and that success was enormous.

It will involve new strategy, a healthy dose of humility and a lot of luck. I hope that Mind Candy still has the resilience and the flexibility to adapt.

In the meantime, anyone thinking of making games for kids take note: the UK market leader has just declared that it is too difficult, and you shouldn’t even bother.

 

* I love the title that GamesIndustry gave Michael.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com