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Kid’s Software & The Evolution of SaaS

Something interesting just occurred to me as my (now) four year old and a couple of her friends were huddled around one of the computers in my office playing a Dragon Tales coloring game while my seven and eleven year old were in their respective rooms playing with the virtual pets in their virtual worlds of Webkinz.

Why is the fact that my kids are huddled around their Mac Mini’s on a cold day playing computer games in any way remarkable?  Because all of them were playing games which are hosted and presented via the Internet; no software except a browser required on this end.


Well, the really interesting thing was that my wife reminded me that we haven’t purchased ANY children’s software titles in the last two years because all of the games, learning applications and reference materials are all on-line.  Software as a, well, service.  And mostly free to boot!  The same usually can’t be said in the, um, "adult" realm.

This sounds like the kiddy version of GoogleApps.  How long until you don’t even have to buy a DVD for your XBox, PS3 or Wii…as high speed feeds continue to rise, it’s not that large of a stretch…

I think it’s a very interesting perspective on the more "mainstream" adoption of SaaS and a rather interesting way of monetizing it.  In the case of Webkinz, while the virtual world — replete with currency, domiciles, and social services — is free, one has to purchase a physical doll which has attached to it a "secret code" that one uses to register your pet in Webkinz World.  You then give it a name and choose a sex and start building rooms.

It’s basically second life for kids — without the job fairs (yet.)  My wife has now informed me that she’s going to get her own doll to play with the kids online.  I wonder if we’ll actually ever speak to one another in person any more!? 

Scratch that, she’s at this moment registering a bulldog named Waldo.

I’m hoping they start making 5’11 blonde Swedish nurse Webkinz soon…

…which reminds me, given the fact that since all this kid’s software is now on-line, how long until someone compromises it for unseemly reasons?   An interesting attack vector, no doubt.  I think I’ll call it SaaD – Software as a Disservice?


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  1. zabuni
    January 13th, 2008 at 13:13 | #1

    Non-subscription monetization is the new hotness in virtual worlds. Club Penguin (Recently bought by Disney), Runescape, and almost every Korean MMORPG follow this model. See this talk by virtual world luminary Raph Koster about the numbers versus traditional games. http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/gdcprime2007.sht
    He even makes the same point you do, about flash versus video game discs.
    Koster is currently working on a host service/API for virtual worlds, called Metaplace.
    As far as security goes, I've heard of only minor hacking of the smaller children's games. Creeps trying to communicate to others using furniture, timing hacks to get more of the currency in the game, mass raids of tween hangouts like Habbo Hotel. Moving the stakes up to larger, more adult oriented games, like WoW, and you see a great deal of both client side and server side hacking, mostly as a side effect of the RMT market.

  2. January 13th, 2008 at 13:27 | #2

    Thanks for the link! If you don't mind me asking, what's your background?

  3. zabuni
    January 13th, 2008 at 18:44 | #3

    Nothing that interesting. IA Auditing. Computer gaming is also a hobby of mine, and the intersection of the two always makes for good reading material for my RSS reader: http://metasecurity.net/ http://playnoevil.com/ http://terranova.blogs.com/
    O brave new worlds
    That have such hacks in it!

  4. January 13th, 2008 at 18:47 | #4

    Thank God for this, because fragile media (whether for software, music, movies, gaves) and my kids doesn't mix. They last about a week before they get scratched or have yogurt spilled on them and they error out. Bring on SAAS for kids software!

  5. January 14th, 2008 at 07:12 | #5

    Makes total sense from an average user side, SaaS does. You don't have to figure out how to install it, troubleshoot it, upgrade it, move files around to a place they can run it (an amazingly difficult concept to grasp for newbies), manage a desktop icon, and so on. As long as the service remains secured and works in a browser, it certainly keeps a consumer's system far cleaner, so to speak. And makes life less complicated.

  6. January 15th, 2008 at 07:02 | #6

    Man, I have one kid completely hooked on Club Penguin and I can't seem to figure out why. Fer Chrissakes, it's a little animated penguin waddling around in an igloo. And oooh, you get to
    But then again, I logged her into a MMORPG just so she could walk around in a virtual world for 5 hours and wave to everybody. =)

  7. doug
    January 22nd, 2008 at 11:52 | #7

    The only downside is trying to console your 6 year old daughter when webkinz had some growing pains during the Christmas holiday and she can't register her new pet. Lately I hear nothing but webkinz talk at the bus stop, it's the biggest thing since pet rocks.

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