For Facebook Friends of SpongeBob

Tomorrow, the 16 million Facebook fans of SpongeBob Squarepants will see the premiere episode of a new SpongeBob 5 episode mini-series called, “Legends of Bikini Bottom.”  The first episode, “Trenchbillies”, launches on the SpongeBob Squarepants Facebook page at 8pm and guest stars Amy Sedaris.  The remaining four episodes will run on Nickelodeon on Friday in an hour-long special.  

My one concern is that kids are supposed to be 13+ to use Facebook, and SpongeBob definitely has some younger fans.  Hopefully mom or dad logs onto their account to watch with their kids, or the kids catch the full special on Saturday, January 29, starting at 10am.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though.  In addition to clips, trivia and message boards, introduced a new game of the week with six mini games.  However, to access the final game, fans must tune-in to the Friday TV special to hear the special code.

This is a really nice integrated promotion Nickelodeon!  Leveraging the power of Facebook for episode one, enriching the experience online, but ultimately driving network tune-in for that last access code.  Smart.  I like it.

Pretending to be Jeff Gordon

When you hear CES (Consumer Electronics Show) you think – Sony, Panasonic, Microsoft, Apple.  Did you ever think you’d hear Hot Wheels?

Toy company Mattel is supersizing the age-old racetrack with a miniature camera so kids can see what it’s like to do loop-de-loops at 1/64 the size.


The vehicle has a VGA video camera mounted at the front… There’s even a small LCD on the undercarriage that lets you play back the clips.

There’s no external memory storage option, but the Video Racer is able to capture up to 12 minutes of footage. There’s also an optional case that allows you to clip the racing recorder to a skateboard or bicycle.

Mattel is supplying a simple-to-use video editor with the Video Racer that allows users to edit clips and add sound and effects.

Kids can pretend to be Jeff Gordon without even getting in a racecar, but can also capture themselves on their bike and skateboard with the protective optional case.  Now all Mattel needs is to tap into their Hot Wheels website where kids can safely upload and share their best stunts and video captures for all to see.  Maybe even let kids rate the best stunts of the week…

The new Hot Wheels Video Racer should be in stores this fall and will retail for $59.99.

And the Oscar goes to…

As the nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards were announced this week, and the animated film Toy Story 3 got a nod for Best Picture, I couldn’t help but wonder why a movie’s digital and interactive elements have not been embraced as award worthy.  This is, after all, the biggest awards show of the year.  What’s one more (in my opinion – important) category?

If “no toy is left behind” what about the digital toys on the Toy Story 3 website?  Don’t these activities, videos and games only further the movie going experience?  For kids, the movie is just one part of the entertainment process.  They want to keep consuming the characters, the stories, and the fun!

Puffle Power?

I was sitting with my boss yesterday and she told me yet another fascinating story about her son (the 7 year old).  Her son had received an awesome iPod docking station from his grandparents, a gift valued at around $150.  Just this weekend, her son had a total meltdown (tears and all), begging mom and dad to return the gift from his grandparents and instead use the money to buy an assortment of $6.99 Club Penguin “puffle” plastic figurines.  puffles

While online may be the thriving and emerging mode of play for kids, I don’t think anything will ever replace individual or group play in the real world.  Despite having an entire virtual world to play with, the kid was crying for plastic figurines!

Which brings me to my next point – I was floored to hear that Club Penguin had crossed the divide into physical in-store merchandise.  I suppose lots of online children’s brands move from online to real world, but Club Penguin seemed different to me.  I didn’t expect to have an entire “Character/Theme” page to Club Penguin.

But then again, kids want and can consume their favorites on all screens and apparently all stores – virtual goods from virtual stores and real life Puffles at brick and mortars.  Forget content is king… kid is king.

Six Days in Fallujah

Video game developer Konami has decided to cancel a realistic video game called “Six Days in Fallujah”.

Konami officials said in a statement, “After seeing the reaction to the videogame in the United States and hearing opinions sent through phone calls and e-mail, we decided several days ago not to sell it. We had intended to convey the reality of the battles to players so that they could feel what it was like to be there.”

Video game developers push the envelope with games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto, and while war is a sensitive subject in America, is Six Days in Fallujah any worse than the others?  Is this the kind of material we want kids and teens to see in GameStop?  Advertised in the Best Buy weekend circular?  How much worse are armed conflicts in Fallujah than acting as a criminal whose missions include robberies and assassinations.  Do these games belong at all for teens/kids and for that matter, for adults.

Wiggle Time!


Australia’s favorite musical group The Wiggles are moving from the stage to the page, as they launch their first interactive online world on April 24th.   The site invites preschoolers and their families to safely explore the internet and learn through play.  Kids can play games, listen to music, do activities and watch videos, while parents can find forums for discussion, information and techniques, new promotions as well as an update on how their child is performing on the site.  The site is free, but premiums services are also available: $5.99 per month as a one-off subscription; $5.35 per month for a six month minimum; $60 per year as a one-off subscription.  Or… parents can pay for a bundled package, in which part of the fees include a UNICEF donation and access to “very secret content to unlock and play in Wiggle Time too!”

Edutainment Strikes Again… Nintenducation

If you’re a student in Japan or Great Britain, you’re loving life right about now.  According to an article from Kotaku, schools in both countries are using Nintendo DS systems in K-12 classrooms.


How would a school use the DS to teach – consider the curriculum a Scottish school is developing around the DS.

“We suggest that schools follow [the Brain Age] methodology although they are free to trial other approaches,” said Robertson. “Our main approach is not to prescribe a series of lesson plans but to suggest how the game, be it Nintendogs or Hotel Dusk, can be used as the contextual hub about which learning in a variety of curricular links can grow from.”

Teachers are using Nintendogs, for example, to interest kids in reading, creative writing and art.  Some use it as a “mental starter to warm up” or as a literacy lesson.

Ethically, the article questions not only the value of games as teaching tools – everyone will have their own opinion – but, at $129.99 plus the cost of games, could US schools justify the spend when some school districts in the US can’t afford textbooks, let alone computers or Nintendo DS systems for every student.

A parent of a 3rd grader said, “”Ultimately, I don’t think they should have DSs in school because we have so many other things we could be spending money on.”

Which is worse for our students, being concerned with the value of edutainment or the dollar value of non-traditional learning?