Word Magic Leads Collection of iPhone Games – Beta Tester a 4 year old

March 18, 2009

in iphone, iPhone Developers

It’s the stories that really motivate developers. Last night we were treated to a surprise when the founder of Anusen.com presented her games at the Silicon Valley iPhone Developer Meetup run monthly by Tim Burks.

Anusen is a new little educational software company that got a lot to be proud of. I think it is a classic immigrants story. Founders come to Silicon Valley. Do well. Have beautiful young daughter and then launch iPhone software development company. That might be the cryptic story. The human story was more fascinating when told last night. It’s also a lesson for those thinking about complex solutions that simplicity, the type that a four year old can grasp, may get you into business faster.

Anu shared her games. Games that emerged from being a mother and motivated by a child’s interest in making learning fun and simple. We were shown six games that Anusen has developed over the last six months. These include Word Magic (listed as #9 in the iTunes store today), Math Magic, Match Magic etc. They are nice elegant apps that are designed for a child. I love the “sticker” reward approach, it appears very appropriate. Touch and choose the answer. What could be simpler.

The human side. She designs them and does the graphics. Her husband (X) turns it into an app and their 4 year old daughter “tests” the software. Perhaps the cutest part of the demo was hearing their four year old provide the voice over commentary “awesome”, “try again” etc. Perhaps they will redefine the definition of family business. Few youngsters will be able to say they joined and got started at 4.

In my view there’s enough of a start here that they could develop it into quite a nice business. Right now the number of Mum’s with iPhones and Touchs with 4 year olds is still a small number. Yet that’s going to keep growing.

I saw a few lessons in this example.

  • It paid to have some good graphics and they’ve used the “touch” capability very effectively in a simple way.
  • The core model or engine that drives these games is the same. I can infer the same or a similar voice package. (Multi-language???)
  • The approach has been quick to roll out and could segment an interesting position in the burgeoning educational software area.

Some general comments I didn’t hear but remain useful.

  • Updates. Many reviewers want more words. I imagine other apps in this series are similar. Still flash card like apps are what they are. The value is incredible compared with buying a real set of flash cards!
  • It struck me that again these products are under-marketed. The company is in an enviable position with six products now targeting this market. Yet the apps don’t cross-market. They don’t talk education or send the adult to a special page or a blog or forum to contribute.
  • I still know very little about the iPhone educational software for kids. It feels like the potential for fertile ground.
  • The iTunes store remains a problem for a product like this. Lucky for them they have a top 9 product in Word Magic. Yet selling the portfolio should be a priority. There is no recommendation by age or for who section.

I’m also seeing more opportunities:

  • Like many iPhone apps there’s little external marketing. The basic product elements have done well. Although the product branding is minimal.  What I don’t see on Anusen.com is any blog, any forum for parents or even other options that could create a bigger and larger community around these games. Think leapfrog!
  • There’s no SEO optimization to getting the games listings visible in Google searches. I’m not trying to be negative. This is a typical challenge for developers. In this case we have more than normal. Great graphics, a signature if you will. I can also understand that the “marketing” budget didn’t exist. It was a project first – for fun – and is only now becoming a business. However, the social tools that could exist and could promote these kids games are missing.We had a good example last night in a “Linkify” talk/review.
  • There no PR component and as a special interest / “family turns to iPhone development” is frankly a nice story. There’s also an opportunity with educational sites.

I’m increasingly concluding that there is a real market for “marketers” to partner with iPhone app developers. Yes in the product innovation but also in the marketing… just getting the word out. Creating opportunities and insight for the team. It seems there is little money in them to begin with. The only way is to factor a % as part of a relationship and help these small businesses prosper. The elements for many of these are the same for all. They  need sales and exposure. They need simple promo and product and release plans. They need blogs and social media strategies. Where’s the YouTube on this product?  Most can continue to be executed by the developers. They also need access to partnerships, input on listings and connections to other developers. There’s real opportunity for cooperation and ranging items. I’d bet Anusen knows more about 4-5 year old games than most if not all in the iTunes store. Add to this bus dev opportunities and potential partnering. I bet there’s a little girl that could be the spokesperson…

These games aren’t making enough yet. They could also get blitzed by a player with bigger pockets or they could be bought out by a player with big pockets. As always this depends on the motivations. In this case the product is now well beyond just being a game.

I came away impressed. Having also seen Ge Wang and listened to him talk about sonic music, Smule and the Ocarina  at eComm I’d say there is some good learning there for Anusen. Talk to the child development people at Stanford. Find a way to brand your company! Etc.

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