Apparently war game sims sell, even oldish ones. Last weekend I took a quick walk through the games section of our local Target to see what new Wii and DS games looked fun. After picking up a copy of Cooking Mama, I took a gander at some of the games on the next row of shelves. The next aisle over offered an extensive selection of games, each priced to move at $9.99.
It is kinda like the minor league for commercial video games. There are major league veterans, like Civilization III, riding out their final years. Other games, like the rack of historical battle games pictured above, just never had what it took to make it to the majors.
A Walk Down Edutainment Lane
Alongside these games, I also found a slate of old edutainment favorites, Math blaster, Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, all the games I use to play on 3.5 floppies. What are these games doing here? The original Math Blaster was released in 1987, Carmen Sandiego in 1985, and Oregon Trail in 1971. While these editions are clearly updated, for example Math Blaster is now in 3D, from what I can gather they are really just better looking ports of the original games. Are these the educational equivalent of Mario and Donkey Kong? Are the core ideas behind these games so strong that we just haven’t topped them, or do publishers just go with what’s safe? Furthermore, what is the market for these games? I would assume the audience for these titles is still the same, targeting parents who want to buy educational games for their kids, it’s just that now they’re marketing to parents that grew up with these same games.
One Reply to “A Walk Down Edutainment Lane: Or, What Target Taught Me About Serious Games”
The trouble with the educational games space is that shelf-space has become more triggy. Furthermore, unfortunately I think many parents are many not the most critical and savvy buyers so they go with old stuff rather than make room for new stuff.
I think that a game like Itza Bitza goes in another direction. And as stated elsewhere I am also hoping that our game Playing History (www.playinghistory.eu) will go a long way towards challenging the existing edutainment space.
I also, think and hope that as digital distribution goes from game nerds to mainstream we will have a new opening for educational games, but right now its very difficult.