San Francisco-based kids’ app platform Fingerprint is teaming up with UK educational app maker Mindshapes. The two companies are collaborating on a series of new digital learning activities called “appisodes,” which combine both storytelling and games. It’s the first in what promises to be a busy year of Fingerprint announcements, partnerships, and app launches
In the children’s entertainment and learning space, the term “appisode,” has been used in the past to describe something of an interactive TV-like experience, like what’s found in the iPad apps offered by startups like Kidaptive and PlaySquare (both big hits in this household, I might add), or those from bigger companies, like Disney, for example. But Mindshapes is borrowing the term to describe its own form of entertainment which falls somewhere in between interactive storybooks with tappable pages and interactive videos.
“The game and the book fit together, so the game experience is integrated into the various stories,” explains Fingerprint CEO Nancy MacIntyre, who was previously EVP of Product Innovation and Marketing at LeapFrog, before starting Fingerpint.
Mindshapes, for those unfamiliar, is an Index Ventures-backed kids’ educational app developer started by former Playfish founders and others, whose apps have been downloaded over 1 million times, and whose flagship “Magic Town” storybook has also seen over 1 million stories read. Mindshapes will launch five of these new appisodes with Fingerprint this year. It will be the first time the company has created a bespoke bundle of story books with learning games and play integrated into them, Mindshapes co-CEO Nina Pustilnik tells us. The appisodes will also feature “big-time and well known characters and licenses,” however Fingerprint’s McIntyre says she’s not permitted to reveal which characters those are at this time due to the licensing agreements currently in place.
“The Mindshapes team has created a variety of very successful game apps as well as book apps, so they’re taking the best practices and the child behavior they’ve been seeing from both their games business and their books business and really blending those two experiences together in a way that’s super unique and engaging,” MacIntyre says of the forthcoming apps. “Some kids are driven by the story, and others are driven by the games, so we think this approach will be wonderful for everybody,” she adds.
Including the five appisodes, Fingerprint’s overall app pipeline is growing substantially in 2013, as the company is planning to launch 40 titles during the year. Each title, especially if it’s a freemium app, might have multiple components to it – meaning new content available via in-app purchases, which is how Fingerprint monetizes. In exchange for the revenue share, Fingerprint helps with marketing or product development, while the publisher integrates Fingerprint’s SDK into its products.
This SDK, which is also getting an upgrade in four or five weeks time, is another thing that makes Fingerprint unique. It allows the parent and child to communicate via the app through its “mom-comm” system (which works with dads, too, but that wasn’t as catchy.) Kids can send messages and record their voice after successfully completing various tasks in the game, and parents can then send messages of praise in return. Over 200 developers worldwide have requested access to the SDK, but Fingerprint first verifies submissions for educational value and quality.
In addition to Mindshapes, another new partner in Fingerprint’s efforts this year is Hong Kong-based Digital Learning Company, which offers language learning apps for kids 3 to 8. Their first product teaches children Mandarin, and will launch in around five weeks with more apps to follow.
Initially Fingerprint’s collection of apps were largely self-produced, but that’s now starting to change. Fingerprint has released eight first-party titles to date, with five more in production for 2013, two of which are additions to Fingerprint’s popular “Big Kid” app series. Going forward, only around one-third will be Fingerprint’s own apps, while another two-thirds will be either third party creations or co-developed with a third party. “We think about our business almost like it’s a television network, where we’re finding partners,” MacIntyre says of this approach.
The company’s apps are starting to see decent traction, as well. Many of the games have been featured by Apple, including Big Kid Firefighter, Green$treets, Whole Wide World, and those built in conjunction with VeggieTales. To date, over 400,000 families (not just kids, but parents, too – Fingerprint’s average family has 1.7 children) have played over 55 million minutes of Fingerprint games. The company saw a 30 percent increase in families playing in December, and is seeing decent user loyalty and returns, and average gaming sessions of 8 to 10 minutes.
Fingerprint, as of today, has 24 games available, which are listed on the company’s website here.