A Premium Experience – for $1.99
February 24, 2012
Swedish developers Toca Boca are shaking up the digital world – for our kids. And they’re doing it with just the right combination of tradition and subversion.
By their own admittance, they don’t create apps. Instead, they’re “playsmiths” building digital toys. They don’t have an arsenal of analysts and researchers identifying the next trend, only to repurpose, re-skin and cash in.
Instead, they build stuff they think kids want to play with. They base their ideas on everyday activities that might be relatively mundane to adults, like cutting someone’s hair, cooking a meal, or applying a bandage, that when brought to a digital world, take on new meaning. And they test them with real kids. Like Toca Hair Salon.
And they charge for them. Anywhere from $.99 to $2.99 (one-time install cost, no in-app charges here), or what amounts to a premium purchase when it comes to kids’ apps.
So the question is - why pay for an app when you can download one free one after another, entertaining your kids with ant smashing, cupcake stacking, stick figure jumping insanity?
Unfortunately, many free apps geared toward kids offer a pretty limited experience. A quick, one-note win or lose scenario. Kids engage for a minute or two, quickly realize there are thousands of options out there – and exit. And since most are built on the in-app sales model, they’re shouting and blinking “Add Lives” or “Upgrade Now,” when they’ve already lost their audience.
Admittedly, when my kids wanted to pay to download one of Toca Boca’s apps, I was distrusting. Two bucks to pretend to cut someone’s hair? Nope.
But they convinced me, as kids do. Then they started playing. For real playing. Not staring at the display, but engaging together with toys brought to life by the iPad, as opposed to tried and true gaming models, reformatted and boring.
$2.99 in this world is truly a premium. But as evidenced in most categories, the premium product carries with it an elevated experience. Whether it’s a BMW, a Viking Range, a pair of Red Wings or a Trex Deck. These brands know who they are and who their consumer is. They focus on the experience, not (just) the demographics and competitive landscape.
That’s why they lead categories.
And very quickly, in my own very unscientific analysis of our home’s iPad usage, Toca Hair Salon, Toca Kitchen, and Toca Doctor are killing it. So much so that the February 23rd release of the new Toca House app was met in my house with the anticipation of a major motion picture. Because they know the Toca Boca brand by now. Nearly as well as they know Lego or Crayola or Hot Wheels. And they know it will be fun.
I’ll pay two bucks for that any day.