Fingerprint Digital, a creator of children’s iOS software which debuted its first five apps back in December of 2011, is back with its latest creation Whole Wide World, which CEO and co-founder Nancy MacIntyre says is its most ambitious title yet. While the app itself presents an interesting approach to creating targeted kids content for Apple’s mobile devices, it’s Fingerprint’s larger strategy that points the way forward for the kid-focused mobile software market.
Whole Wide World takes kids on a global tour of destinations in various countries, giving them activities to complete in each that not only entertain but are also designed to provide some educational value, too. Initially, Whole Wide World ships for free, complete with four included countries kids can visit, and then additional country content packs will be available via in-app purchase, including two at launch, and more planned for release on a roughly monthly schedule going forward.
The new app is an in-house effort by Fingerprint Digital, in collaboration with award-winning children’s writer Rachael Tobener, but the company sees it as just the next step in its ultimate goal: becoming a trusted network of kids’ content parents can turn to in order to sort through the confusion of Apple’s App Store, which doesn’t necessarily provide the best tools for filtering content.
“Our objective is build a network of very high quality content so the parent can trust that anything that’s on the Fingerprint network will be approrprate and approved for their child,” MacIntyre, a veteran of the children’s entertainment industry whose work history includes LeapFrog and Broderbund Software, where she helped develop the Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego? franchise. “We think about this much more like the creation of a television network, in that we’re offering up curated content that you know is right for your child and right for you as the parent.” The focus for the company is on building out a wide stable of apps that fit that vision, and while in-house content is part of that strategy, the larger picture is really the Fingerprint SDK.
Fingerprint’s platform allows developers to integrate what the company calls its “Mom-Comm” features into their apps, which allows parents to communicate with their children directly through in-app messaging. MacIntyre described how that works in the specific case of Whole Wide World.
“As you progress through the content, there will be various times where you’re given the opportunity to send a message,” she explained. “So when you complete a level, you can send a postcard to your parents about your experiences, and they can reply back. That’s just another way we keep parents up-to-date on their children’s progress.” Third-party developers can implement messaging the same way via the SDK, and have their games send messages to parents either at the child’s request, or when a specific achievement level is reached. Parents can then reply to those messages either on their devices or via the web.
MacIntyre said that so far, the Fingerprint products have seen “steady growth” since their introduction, but declined to talk about specific download numbers. “We’re much more interested in tracking play sessions, and whether we’re getting continual repeat play from kids,” she said. “A fourth of our kids have played any one Fingerprint app more than 25 times, and the average play session is about nine minutes. We’re seeing significant growth in users, and significant growth in sessions.” She said that the engagement stats are much more relevant to the company’s larger goal, which is to get users onto the platform, and then to migrate them around to Fingerprint’s other offerings, be they first- or third-party apps also using the Fingerprint SDK.
Fingerprint’s big-picture approach definitely introduces unique challenges compared to what kid-focused competitors like Moshi Monsters are trying; the company has to court developers to use its SDK, which also involves a revenue sharing agreement on money made through the third-party apps, and Fingerprint also has to be picky about who they let in to ensure the brand remains synonymous with high-quality content parents can trust. But MacIntyre thinks in the long run, building a quality network instead of trying for one-off hits is the best way to build lasting value in the iOS kids market. Time will tell if that’s a bet that pays off.