EventsGame DevelopmentNews

Reaching Gen-Z with Apps and Games

July 8, 2016 — by David Radd


EventsGame DevelopmentNews

Reaching Gen-Z with Apps and Games

July 8, 2016 — by David Radd

Casual Connect USA is about matching the creativity of the games industry with new media innovation and investment. There will be many talented speakers at Casual Connect USA 2016, and today we are giving you a glimpse of some of the Kids & Family track speakers.

Children are our future, and they’re also digital natives that are consuming apps and games from a very young age. Join experts as they discuss successful strategies to engage and teach this younger generation.  The panels and sessions will take place on Tuesday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 20.

The Challenges with Making Children’s Content

Game development with kids is rewarding and potentially lucrative, but it has challenges that other fields do not. Chris Heatherly, SVP and GM for Disney Interactive Games, The Walt Disney Company, knows about this as their company touches almost all fields of childhood entertainment. Mashable Apps Reporter Karissa Bell will interview them during the “Fireside Chat with Chris Heatherly of The Walt Disney Company”, where they will talk about what it takes to market and operate games for kids that also meet the approval of their parents. With experience with digital apps, mobile games, and various consumer products, they’ll offer insight over the full range of children’s entertDisneyainment experiences.

Whether you’re dealing with physical toys or digital games for kids, big data is important in the space, despite the sensitive requirements needed for people not legally adults. Guy Tomer, CMO of TabTale, knows intimately about this as their company keeps track of their portfolio of 300 apps and 1 billion downloads. As a top publisher in the kids space, they will talk about how to grow business opportunities while navigating various legal requirements in the session titled “Big Data for the Little People: Making the Most of it While Keeping Their Privacy”. They’ll look at details of optimization tools and their own advanced business intelligence systems and under COPPA guidelines.

The Future of Mobile Co-Op

It can be a challenge getting apps surfaced in the kids space, and that’s why Google Play launched Designed for Families a year ago to help developers surface apps and games to parents. Shazia Makhdumi, Global Head of Educational Apps Business Development at Google Play, currently works on this initiative and they want to share their expertise with others. In “Family-Friendly Apps: The Inside Scoop”, they’ll lead a discussion looking at the ways that kids and family app developers can develop high quality software and apps for their audience. Attendees will also get practical tips on reach, retention and revenue over the long run.

Before trying to get an app surfaced, scientific research can be key in what to do and what to avoid. Dr. J. Alison Bryant, Chief Play Officer and Co-CEO of PlayScience, will talk about the fine art of developing cooperative game play on mobile devices. In “A Developer’s Guide to Family Cooperative Mobile Play” they’ll talk about various genres, mechanics, and patterns and discuss how to keep players engaged over a long period of

Looking into co-op insights is of great importance since playing video games in the same place (aka co-located social games) has a lot of potential. People like Andrew Babb, Executive Vice President at Super League Gaming, and Henry Smith at Captain Spaceteam, are enabling this trend by pushing gamers to play video games in movie theaters and playing party games together, respectively. Along with Michael Shore, Mattel’s Head of Global Consumer Insights and Foresights, and Dr. J. Alison Bryant, Chief Play Officer and Co-CEO of PlayScience, this panel titled “Get Real! The Resurgence of Co-Located Multiplayer” will look at social play’s future. Whether it’s mobile games or mobile-physical hybrids, they’ll cover all bases including table top games and interactive toys even ‘toys-to-life’ and AI homes to large-scale location-based shared VR play spaces, goggle-free. Special thanks to Stuart Drexler, CEO of Jago Studios who will be moderating the panel. Stuart helped put it together.

The Science of Making Apps for Kids

It can be tough for developers to make the hard choice between monetization methods when developing apps for kids. Eldad Ben Tora, Chief Revenue Officer at Kidoz, knows all about the push and pull between business development and revenue. At “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Kids Apps Monetization” they will look at the compromise between in-app monetization and doing something that works well with kids. They believe it is possible to hold true to what was originally intended for the audience while being successful at the same time.

Third-party app programs, like Samsung Kids, can have a huge effect on the success of an app. The program is designed to deliver an early learning option for kids that they’ll also find entertaining. As a byproduct of Samsung and Fingerprint, Nancy MacIntyre, CEO and co-founder of FingerprintSamsung, and Kevin Morrow, Vice President of Samsung, will discuss how they managed to launch the program so successfully. In “Cracking the Code around Kids and Mobile Subscription Services” they will introduce the talk with a summary of various insights into Samsung Kids. They’ll continue with other highlights on what developers should know and what is likely to come from the Android-based platform.

Whether the purpose of your app is for education or fun, hands-on kids testing can make a huge difference when it comes to apps for children. Nancy MacIntyre, CEO and co-founder of Fingerprint, is intimately aware of this having worked with hundreds of developers to help make apps for kids. In the session “Art or Science: Using Analytics and Consumer Testing to Create Winning Children’s Products” they will look at the ways that analysis of play data can help make kids apps more profitable. The end result can also be more fun and more engaging as well!

From Minecraft to Beyond the Stars

Minecraft is now an important teaching tool in the classroom. John Miller, Middle School Teacher at Chalone Peaks Middle School and writer at knows how Minecraft can be used to bring historical events to life. Using MinecraftEdu as an example (an indie mod officially purchased by Microsoft), the “Minecraft in Education: Lessons Learned from the Classroom” session will talk about how teachers can use the game to help with curriculum across multiple grade levels and subjects and how Minecraft engages students in whole new ways and inspires them to learn more.Minecraftedu

Children create their own narratives using Minecraft, whether it’s the mobile, console or PC version, reflective of how today’s child consumes media on all devices and exhibits behaviors differently than more mature content consumers. Jen MacLean, President of StoryArc Media, will look at how storytelling is central to this new sort of consumer. In the session, “Making of a Tween Gamer – Disposable Time, Deep Pockets & Newfound Independence” will talk about the success of Poptropica and how it worked within the tween market. With a combination of abundant time, disposable income and independence, attracting these young gamers can drive a game to success, and even teach kids a thing or two along the way.

Coding is an important skill, but it can be hard to make fun. That was the challenge Brendan Reville, Software Engineer at faced when planning for The Hour of Code 2015 a learning event, with 198,000 events taking place around the world in a single week. worked with Disney and LucasFilm to create a Star Wars themed tutorial designed to teach students the basics of coding and in an hour. In “Gameplay in The Hour of Code with Star Wars”, they’ll talk about the difficulties in making a game that taught the lessons they wanted while being fun and creative.

VR Enhanced Play

Many associate toys to life with products like Skylanders, there’s a continuum of various other products that fit with in this category. Caitlin Gutekunst, Sr. Manager Licensing for LeapFrog, Nick Beliaeff, VP of Production for Spin Master Ltd., Orit Wohl, Business Development Manager from Seebo and Sean Levatino, Lead Game Designer at Anki, will speak on the subject in the “Toys to Life” panel. The moderator will be Shai Samet, Founder and President of kidSAFE Seal Program. They will discuss product inception, mechanics, success stories, and the direction of the toys to life space.

While toys to life are hot now, some people think that VR will be the next big hit for kids, but there are still lingering questions over whether its appropriate for children. David KleemaVRn, SVP of Global Trends at Dubit, has been looking at children’s content for decades and is now turning their attention to VR. In “Immersed in Play and Learning: Kids and Virtual Reality”, they will talk about Dubit’s research and talk about how the company has used best practices to launch the first download platform exclusively for children’s VR content at and will discuss the various ways developers can use VR specifically for children.

While VR might be a big hit for children, certain social games are what is cool for kids. Social network game Animal Jam has been a hit for Wildworks. WildWorks had a challenging time developing content for children, having to deal with COPPA regulations and changing expectations in the digital landscape, all of which make retaining young users more difficult. Mitch Smiley, Global Marketing Manager for Wildworks, will talk about how acquiring users can be a positive experience. In the “Digital-First, Kid-Friendly User Acquisition Strategy” session, they will talk about how the company has been successful at marketing Animal Jam and how other developers can do something similar.

How Kids Can Help in Development

Michelle Lee, Digital Kids Lead at IDEO Toy Lab, has helped develop apps like Balloonimals and Monster Moves apps for kids. Part of this was done with design centered around the end users, namely children themselves. In “Involving Kids in the Design of Kids Apps” they will talk about how even experts in the field have a lot to learn from kids themselves about developing child oriented apps. They will talk about how IDEO Toy Lab invites kids in for testing and inspiration during the creation process and how kids can provide unique observations and insights that can drive key design decisions.

Getting kids to care about your app can be hard enough, though it adds new challenges when dNancyDrewealing with an established brand. Jared Nieuwenhuis, Marketing Director for HeR Interactive, had the challenge of reintroducing Nancy Drew (an over 80-year-old brand) to kids aged 5-8. In “How to Re-introduce a Legacy Brand for Kids” they’ll talk about finding the value and relevancy to this young generation.

Reintroducing a brand for kids can be a challenge, but it’s perhaps even harder to make it educational at the same time. Valerie Touze is the co-founder of Edoki and brings the perspective of an educator to that of mobile app development and are looking to unite the fields of education and games with the apps they make. For the session “The Challenges of Publishing Apps for Children” they will talk specifically about the challenges and upsides of working in the field of apps for kids. Having degrees in education and management, they will consider both in talking about how mobile apps should be developed for children under 13.

Kid-Focused Creators at Casual Connect USA

At Casual Connect USA, there will be networking opportunities with 3,000 attendees and over 250 scheduled speakers across all tracks. Whether you’re developing specifically for kids or not, there will be developers, publishers and consultants at the event.

Casual Connect USA will take place at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis on July 18-20. Find out more at



David Radd

David Radd

David Radd is a staff writer for David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.